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This information is currently not accessible to residents living outside of Ontario. For more information on your own province’s Safety Guidelines, please consult with your provincial Ministry of Education.

Ce contenu n’est pas disponible à l’extérieur de l’Ontario. Veuillez communiquer avec le ministère de l’Éducation de votre province pour des renseignements sur les Lignes directrices sur la sécurité de votre province.

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Outdoor Education - Flat Water Kayaking


Secondary - Curricular 2018

Pools, Lake Water Kayaking, Base Camp Kayaking

Flat Water Kayaking is kayaking on lake water or river where no rapids exist and eddies are very slight.

This is not an appropriate activity for non-swimmers.

White Water Canoeing and White Water Kayaking are not appropriate in-class activities at the secondary level.

Consult Outdoor Education – General Procedures and Outdoor Education – Swimming (if swimming is involved).

This activity page must be presented to the activity provider prior to the activity taking place. The activity provider must meet the minimum requirements listed on this page. For more information on planning trips using outside providers, consult Appendix O - Outside Activity Providers.


  • Teacher – A person with a current certification from the Ontario College of Teachers, under contract by the school/board. This person is legally responsible for the students.
  • Trip Guide – An individual who has the required certifications and/or knowledge/skills of the route and activity. This role could be fulfilled by a teacher, a parent/guardian/volunteer or an employee of an outside provider, and must be approved by the school/board.
  • Lifeguard, Assistant Lifeguard and Aquatic Instructor – refer to Supervision section.
  • Instructor – An individual who provides instruction on skills and possesses the required certifications. This role could be fulfilled by a teacher, parent/guardian/volunteer or an employee of an outside provider.
  • Parent/guardian/volunteer – An adult who has been approved by the principal and has been instructed on responsibilities (e.g., monitoring [supervision]).
  • Supervisor – A supervisor is a teacher, parent/guardian/volunteer or trip guide. This term is used only in relation to supervision ratios.
  • Outside Provider - An outside facility contracted by the school/board to provide activity services.


Determine that all equipment is safe for use (e.g., no sharp edges, sharp corners, cracks, or splinters). Students must be encouraged to report equipment problems to the teacher.

A fully stocked first aid kit must be readily accessible. (Consult Appendix D – Sample First Aid Kit)

A working communication device (e.g., satellite or cell phone, or satellite GPS messenger) suitable for the activities/locations must be available. This device must be maintained, waterproofed, protected and dedicated for emergency communications only. The phone number for the device, and phone numbers for emergency services and school contact people (e.g., the principal) must be included with the phone.

Kayak with adequate flotation in nose and stern to prevent kayak from sinking when full of water.

Paddle (1 per paddler) and kayak must be checked for cracks, splinters and leaks.

One buoyant heaving line of not less than 15m (49') (e.g., throw rope rescue bag) per kayak.

One bailer (bailer must be at least 750mL [9oz] with an opening of 65cm2 [10in2] and constructed of plastic and/or metal) per kayak.

One waterproof flashlight per kayak.

Correctly fitting and Transport Canada approved PFD/life-jackets, with whistle attached, must be worn and properly fastened at all times when near or on the water.


Determine that all necessary clothing and footwear are included prior to departing on the excursion. Clothing (in layers where appropriate) and footwear appropriate to the activity, location and environmental conditions must be worn. Dry change of clothing kept in a watertight bag/container must be accessible.

When long hair poses a safety risk it must be secured. Devices (e.g. hair pins, clips and barrettes) used to tie back long hair must not present a safety concern.


Flat water kayaking is kayaking on lake water or river where no rapids exist and eddies are very slight.

Determine that all facilities are safe for use. Students must be encouraged to report facility problems to the teacher.

Check with local authorities for current information regarding route safety.

Water conditions must be appropriate for the type of kayak being used and the skill level of the group.

Special Rules/Instructions

Be aware of students whose medical condition (e.g., asthma, anaphylaxis, casts, previous concussion, orthopaedic device) may affect participation. (Consult Fundamentals of Safety)

Risks involved with the activities must be communicated to parents/guardians with a signed response form from the parents/guardians, giving permission for student to participate.

Students must not participate in the activity until they receive information on concussion prevention specific to the activity, inherent risks of the activity (e.g. outline possible risks and ways to minimize the risks), and procedures and rules for safe play. Students must receive instruction on the importance of reporting symptoms related to a suspected concussion.

Refer to individual school board’s transportation procedures related to communicating with parents/guardians the location of an off-site activity and the means of transportation used as well as to the need for obtaining parent/guardian permission.

Parents/guardians must be informed that all students will wear a correctly fitting and Transport Canada approved PFD/lifejacket, with whistle attached, when near or on the water.

Activities must be modified according to the age, ability level, language, and experience of students and the facility available.

Previous training, fitness level and the length of time and intensity of physical activity must be taken into consideration.

Activities must be based on skills that are taught.

Skills must be taught in proper progression.

A proper warm-up and cool-down must be included.

Adequate liquid replacement (personal water bottles, water fountains) must be accessible for students before, during and after physical activity to prevent dehydration.

Swim Test for Watercraft

Prior to flat water kayaking, students must successfully complete the following swim test in its entirety, in sequence and without any aids or stops:

  • Rolling entry (backwards or forward) into deep water at 2.75m (9’) minimum depth
  • Tread water for 1 minute
  • Swim 50m (164’) continuously any stroke

The test must be administered by a certified aquatic instructor (the test is based on the Lifesaving Society’s Swim to Survive™ Standard).

The swim test must be completed within the school year in which the activity is taking place.

In lieu of completing the swim test, students may provide proof of Bronze Medallion certification or higher.

Results of the swim test must be documented and communicated as per school board policy (e.g., to the student, teacher, principal, parents/guardians, trip guide(s), lifeguards, aquatic instructor, and outside provider [if applicable]).

Students who do not pass the above swim test or who do not have the aforementioned certification must not participate in flat water kayaking.

Kayaking Skills

Prior to flat water kayaking, a prerequisite test must occur in a pool, shallow water, or sheltered bay for which students must demonstrate to the instructor competence in kayaking skills, as follow:

  • Launching a kayak
  • Proper entry/exit from kayak
  • Emptying the kayak (beach and dock)
  • T-rescue
  • Wet exit
  • Maneuvers using the following basic strokes:
    • Forward
    • Backstroke
    • Front sweep
    • Backsweep
    • Drawstroke
    • Bracing
    • Stopping

Environmental Considerations

When environmental conditions may pose a risk to student safety (e.g. thunderstorms [lightning] or student(s) with asthma, triggered by air quality), teachers must take into consideration their school board/school’s protocols and procedures related to:

  • environmental conditions (consult Appendices F-1 to F-6: Lightning Protocol, Sample Air Quality Index, Sample Temperature, Tornado, Ultra Violet Index, and Wind Velocity Preparedness Guides]); and
  • insects (e.g., mosquitoes and ticks [consult the school/school board’s protocols and/or regional Public Health Department’s website]).

Students must receive instruction on safety procedures related to environmental conditions and be made aware of ways to protect themselves (e.g. sun burn, heat stroke).

At all times the school board’s weather and insect procedures are the minimum standards. In situations where a higher standard of care is presented (e.g., outside activity providers, facility/program coordinators), the higher standard of care must be followed.

Teacher and instructor must:

  • be aware of and respond to changing weather and water conditions, prior to and during the trip; and
  • cancel, postpone or alter the excursion if conditions put students’ safety at an elevated level of risk (e.g. wind, temperature, lightning storms, fog).

Visibility of 500m (1640’) is required.

If storm weather suddenly approaches, leave the water immediately.

Daylight kayaking only except under emergency situations.

Navigation lights (e.g., waterproof flashlight) are required if operating at night or in restricted visibility.


On-site supervision is required by the instructor when students are kayaking.

Instructor Qualifications

A trip guide or instructor must possess ORCKA Flatwater Kayaking Instructor Certification, Paddle Canada Basic Kayak Instructor, or equivalent.

Aquatic Instructor Qualifications for the Swim Test for Watercraft

Aquatic instructors must hold one current (to be current, the date on the certificate must not be older than two years) aquatic instructor certificate. When the swim test is administered at a pool, aquatic instructors must also hold an assistant lifeguard certificate or a lifeguard certificate. If the aquatic instructor does not hold a lifeguard certificate or an assistant lifeguard certificate, a certified lifeguard must also be on deck during the aquatic instruction and/or swim test. When the swim test is administered at a waterfront, aquatic instructors must also hold a lifeguard certificate.

Aquatic Instructor Certificates for Pools and Waterfronts:

  • Canadian Red Cross - Water Safety Instructor Certificate
  • Lifesaving Society - Instructor Certificate
  • Lifesaving Society - Swim Instructor Certificate
  • YMCA - Instructor Certificate
  • Ontario Teachers Aquatic Standard (OTAS) - for pool situations only

Lifeguard Certificates for Pools:

  • Canadian Red Cross - Pool Lifeguard
  • Lifesaving Society - National Lifeguard - Pool
  • Equivalent certificate approved by Minister of Health and Long Term Care

Lifeguard Certificates for Waterfronts:

  • Canadian Red Cross – Pool/Waterfront Lifeguard
  • Lifesaving Society – National Lifeguard – Pool/Waterfront
  • Equivalent certificate approved by Minister of Health and Long Term Care

Assistant Lifeguard Certificates for Pools:

  • Canadian Red Cross - Assistant Lifeguard
  • Lifesaving Society - Bronze Cross
  • Equivalent certificate approved by Minister of Health and Long Term Care

Lifeguard certification is the only acceptable standard in a recreational camp waterfront scenario.

Verified copies of certification must be available in the pool area.

Lifeguard Qualifications

A teacher, trip guide or instructor over the age of 18 must have a current lifeguard certificate.

Supervision Ratios for the Swim Test for Watercraft

Pool Swim Test:

  • If conducting the swim test at a pool, there must be a minimum of two certified aquatic instructors on deck or in the pool.
  • Supervision ratio is 2 aquatic instructors per 50 students, (with both instructors also certified as lifeguards or one lifeguard and one assistant lifeguard).
  • In situations where there are 51-75 students, an additional certified aquatic instructor is required.
  • If assistant lifeguards are used, the number of assistant lifeguards may never exceed the number of lifeguards on deck.

Waterfront Swim Test:

  • If conducting the swim test at the waterfront of a recreational camp, there must be 2 certified aquatics instructors who are also certified as lifeguards, supervising up to 25 students. When there are between 26 and 100 students in the water an additional certified lifeguard is required.

Supervision Ratios for Instructional Time

(A supervisor is a teacher, parent/guardian/volunteer or trip guide. This term is used only in relation to supervision ratios.)

1 supervisor per 8 students

First Aid

At least one teacher, trip guide instructor or supervisor must have a minimum of a standard first aid course from a reputable provider (e.g., St. John Ambulance, Canadian Red Cross, Lifesaving Society).

Follow the school's first aid emergency response (consult Appendix E - Sample First Plan and Sample First Aid Emergency Response) and the school board’s concussion protocol (consult the Concussion section).

An emergency action plan and response to deal with evacuations and lock downs must be followed and communicated to students.

Safety Craft

If instruction is taking place in a pool, no safety craft is required.

A safety craft is a designated craft that is rescue-capable, taking into consideration necessary factors (e.g., distance from shore, weather, water and wind conditions), and contains at least one instructor, trip guide or individual who meets the first aid certification.

A safety craft must be in the water and accessible while students are kayaking. The safety craft need not be motorized. If the safety craft is a motorized craft then the operator of the motorized safety craft must have a Pleasure Craft Operator Card. The operator of the safety craft, whether craft is motorized or not, must have experience in navigating the craft.

Also see Fundamentals of Safety section to view complete safety requirements.