The world of water sports - Safety tips and must have products

January 2024

The world of water sports is wide - think wakeboarding/wakesurfing, tubing/biscuiting, waterskiing and stand-up paddle boarding, for example. From thrills and high energy fun, to slower paced pursuits, water sports have plenty to offer.

The popularity of water sports continues to grow. So let’s see what’s out there in terms of related product must-haves* and maybes, and some safety measures associated with the different activities. 

*Yes, we know you need access to a boat, or a paddle board to start with!

Different water sports, what’s needed and going shopping

So, let’s have a look at products suited to various water sports. You could start by checking out the The Boating and Outdoors website, with its focus on water sport product for the Kiwi lifestyle. The Discover Boating website is also a mine of information about these various activities.


Wakeboarding can be one of the harder watersports to master. In wakeboarding, your feet are always on the board (attached in bindings), and your hands are always on the rope handle. But, get the hang of it and you’re in for a lot of fun. Click here for a taste of what’s available out there.

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • Wakeboard - The best way to choose a wakeboard is by rider weight and length as outlined in the wakeboard size chart. There are boards specifically for children too.
  • Wakeboard rope
  • A life jacket
  • Wakeboard helmet (optional).


Wakesurfing is more forgiving physically than waterskiing or wakeboarding - you’re less likely to get hurt. This is because speeds are much lower than waterskiing and wakeboarding and your feet aren’t attached to a board or skiis. Done properly, you only need the rope to get up during a deep-water start. In addition, it’s also not too difficult to learn.

What will you need?

  • A board: Ensure you get an appropriate one. If you’re just starting out wakesurfing, seek out the “beginner boards.”  Models geared toward more accomplished riders can be difficult for newbies to learn to ride. Check here for information on how to buy the right wakesurf board
  • A rope:  Rope choice is important, and a wakesurfing rope is different from a wakeboarding rope (wakesurfing ropes are thicker and shorter, with a heavily padded handle)
  • A life jacket.


First came waterskiing… the likes of kneeboarding, slalom, wakesurfing and wakeboarding followed. And as you would expect, equipment has improved over time.

What will you need?

  • Water skiis
  • Water ski rope and handle. A water ski rope is a specific kind of rope and not all are created equal. Check out this site for information regarding the rope you may need
  • Life jacket or PFD (personal floatation device). 


Ever get pulled behind a boat on a tube, or towed your children behind a boat on a biscuit? Many Kiwis will be answering yes to the above.

Tubing is a lot of fun in itself (kids love it!) and it’s also a great entry point to other watersports. Boat drivers remember: what’s needed is 360-degree awareness and cautious driving. A towable tube swings out wide opposite of the direction you’re turning, so it’s especially important to be aware of shorelines, docks, trees and other boats. The fewer boats around when you’re towing kids on a tube the better.

Such advice, and more (including where to buy tubes), can be found here.

What you need:

  • Life jackets. Bright ones are recommended for children
  • Tow rope. These are sold based on the number of children you intend to tow. Some have a bungee functionality
  • Towable tube. These are available to suit varying needs - you don’t need a flying tube, for example, if you are towing a pre-schooler. They’re more comfortable than ever and can cater for various numbers.


Stand-up paddleboarding - or 'SUP' - is considered by many to be a great activity to get out on the water, combining fitness and fun!

Just a heads up: The most common problem for paddlers is getting blown out to sea. So avoid offshore winds whenever possible, and don’t put yourself in potential danger by paddling too far offshore. As mentioned above, acquaint yourself with the SUP SAFE code 

What you need:

  • Board and paddle
  • Life jacket
  • A pump if your board is an inflatable one
  • Leash.  It is very important to wear a leash. However, it is equally important to wear the right leash for the conditions. For example, on moving water, use a leash with a quick-release system that can be operated from above the waist. The SUP Safe site includes such information.

Having fun means playing safe

It’s important to note that even if you are a watersport whizz, you still need to have all the correct safety gear on hand - common sense and regulations require this.

For all of the water sports mentioned above, you’ll need a set of good life vests, for most you’ll need a strong and sturdy rope for towing, and, if you’ve got advanced wakeboarders on board you may want to include helmets. And of course, make sure you always have a spotter to point out when your riders have taken a dive.

For watersport safety start by having a read of this. There are some safety rules particular to specific water sports. For example, if you’re wakesurfing then make sure your driver keeps the speed at around 16 kmh. If you’re towing a tube or biscuit, then ensure everyone’s familiar with the safety hand signals for communication between the spotter and those riding on the tube.

If you’re a stand-up paddle board enthusiast then wear a leash every time you paddle, but it needs to be the right leash for the conditions. Find out more about this here. If you are planning to paddle why not ensure you’re familiar with the SUP SAFE code. While it can seem safe and easy, stand-up paddle boarding is like any water sport in terms of risk. Paddlers should carry at least one form of waterproof communication (a phone or Maritime VHF radio with emergency channel 16) in a waterproof case will tick that box.  Why not carry a whistle on your life jacket too? New paddlers should paddle along the coastline, and it’s safest to paddle with others. Always ensure someone knows you’re on the water. If heading to the beach for a paddle, then check:

  • The weather forecast
  • Wind strength and direction (now and forecast)
  • Tide height and flow if they are on the coast, and swell conditions
  • Water temperature.

Have fun!