PFD  - Personal Floatation Device 

They are mandatory on Sydney Harbour and at most races around the world, and in my opinion it’s a no brainer: always wear a PFD!

Your safety gear can be placed in the pockets of the PFD. If you lose your surf ski at sea, you really don’t want to lose your radio, PLB or flares with it.


                         Viakobi V3 PDF                                       Viakobi VXP PFD


Leg Leash

If you fall out of your surf ski the leg leash will keep you attached. In strong winds your light surf ski will be picked up by the wind and blown away from you in seconds.


Such a small item, but it could save your life.

Blowing the whistle could attract the attention of the other paddlers around you or in more extreme cases a boat passing by.It costs about 2c and should be on every PFD!

If your rudder breaks

Some paddlers carry a piece of rolled up duct tape or a few paddle pop sticks that can be jammed under the rudder. If you don’t have steering, a jammed rudder makes the ski more manageable.

SafeTrx App running on a SmartPhone

Carry your iPhone in a waterproof case with the SafeTrx app installed and running. Australia (Coast Guard SafeTrx)

SafeTrx has the following features:

  • It sends your GPS position every 10min (or 5min or 1min, you can configure it) to a website monitored by the local search and rescue authority.
  • You can press an emergency button that immediate alerts the authority, who generally will try to call you to confirm the emergency before sending rescuers.
  • You can send a link via WhatsApp, Messenger, email, etc. to people who would like to track you. The recipient clicks on the link and the SafeTrx web page opens showing your current position. When we do a downwind paddle, please send to a least one of the other paddlers in the group as well as a family member back at home.

SafeTrx Advantages:

  • It’s free to use.
  • Most paddlers have an iPhone or Android device capable of running SafeTrx


  • SafeTrx requires a good connection to the mobile network. In some isolated places, this may not be present.
  • It’s not always easy to operate a touch-screen through a plastic pouch – with wet fingers.

Paddler Can’t Remount

A common (and the most easily prevented) cause of surf ski emergencies is the inability to remount.

  • Practice. You need to be just as comfortable remounting from either side of your ski. Most paddlers feel more comfortable remounting from the left side of the ski – practice remounting from the right side too.
  • Practice. Make sure you practice in rough conditions, not just on flat water. Don’t be afraid of remounting in strong winds – when the wind is blowing, it’s actually easier to remount as the wind pushes you onto the ski and stabilises you.
  • Practice. Bring the remount into your regular sessions – at the end of a downwind run, do a remount from each side of the boat. If you’re doing intervals, include a remount between each one.

There’s really no excuse for this one. If you’re not super-confident about your remount, then you shouldn’t be offshore.




I carry a small pack of three pencil flares in your PFD pocket. Some folks carry a smoke flare either in a pocket or on their surf ski.

Pencil flares

  • Come in packs of three or six. Best use is to pop off multiple flares, leaving an interval of 20min, say, between them and saving the last one for when you can see your rescuers. Almost always, you’ll see them before they see you.
  • They only last for a few seconds but leave a smoke trail in the sky. Shoot them straight up, don’t shoot into the wind because if you do, you’ll experience “getting your own back” and a face full of burning magnesium isn’t a Good Thing.

Handheld smoke flares

  • Produce a very bright light for up to 60 seconds as well as a huge cloud of red smoke.
  • Give you one chance – most paddlers only carry one!
  • Are usually longer (and therefore less convenient to carry) than a pencil flare kit.


Carry a floating waterproof handheld marine VHF radio in your PFD pocket.

  • VHF communications are line-of-sight, which means range is limited if you’re a long way out to sea.
  • The radio is exceptionally easy to use, even when your hands are cold.
  • Radios should be tested frequently.
  • Get to know the emergency channels and “general chat” station numbers.



Personal Location Beacons (PLBs) are radios that communicate via a network of satellites. They incorporate GPS units, and can track and broadcast your GPS position.

To activate a PLB, you generally have to extend a short aerial and then press and hold an emergency activation button. The unit then sends a signal via the satellite network that includes your unique ID and your GPS position. The network’s ground station receives the signal and passes it on to the Maritime Rescue and Coordination Centre (MRCC) nearest your position. They then contact the appropriate search and rescue organisation, who comes to look for you.



The PLB has several advantages over other communication devices:

  • The same device works all over the planet and is not limited to mobile networks or terrestrial antennae
  • There’s no cost aside from the device itself.

Disadvantages include:

  • The signal has to go through multiple organisations before reaching the people who are actually going to rescue you. This could take seconds, minutes or hours depending on the efficiency of the MRCC in your area.
  • The communication is one-way. You have no way of speaking to the rescuers, neither do they have any means of informing you when they’re going to arrive.

The PLB is also a sophisticated piece of equipment. If you do invest in one:

  • Make sure you know how to use it.
  • Understand that it must be out of the water when you use it, so a good place to carry it is mounted on the shoulder strap of your PFD.
  • It needs to be tested. Every PLB has a test procedure; make sure you use it at least every six months. 


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