Surfing (body, board and ski)


​​Guideline review date: 28 October 2021​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​

This guideline is provided to support schools in implementing the managing risks in school curriculum activities procedure.

The CARA planner (DOCX, 600KB) must be used for the specific school context in conjunction with this guideline considering additional risks, hazards and controls and including environmental, facility, equipment and student considerations

For activities beyond the scope of this guideline, complete a CARA record using the CARA generic template (DOCX, 488KB).

Activity scope

This guideline relates to student participation in body surfing or surfing with body boards, surfboards or surf skis as an activity to support curriculum delivery.

Depending on the scope of this activity, other risk assessments may be required when planning. Curriculum activities encompassing more than one CARA guideline (e.g. marine organism activities​ and surfing) must comply with the requirements of all CARA guidelines appropriate to the activity.

For activities conducted at a non-Department of Education venue, and/or when engaging external expertise, request written risk assessment advice and attach it to this CARA record.

For activities conducted off-site, schools must comply with the school excursions procedure.

For activities conducted as part of representative school sport programs, schools should consult with Queensland School Sport​.​

Risk level​​​

High risk
Surfing activities involving wave riding with or without boards.

Activity requirements

If any requirement cannot be met, the activity must not occur.

If any other safety recommendation cannot be met, modify the activity (or elements of it) and/or identify and use the hierarchy of controls to implement alternative control measures to meet or exceed the minimum safety standard.

Prior consultation is required with local authority (e.g. Surf Life Saving Queensland, lifeguard service, marine park managers) for local advice, emergency support mechanisms and additional supervision requirements to ensure participant and public safety.

Confirmation of student water safety and swimming competence is required prior to participation. The process is determined by the school and must consider the specific aquatic environments in which the activity will take place. Consult the sequence of competency water safety and swimming education program for support in determining age-appropriate suitability and consider student surf awareness and self-rescue skills.

Do not surf if the forecast wave height and swell direction at the activity location exceeds the level of competence of participants.

Competition rules and procedures with additional or more stringent safety requirements must take precedence.​


Parent consent (DOCX, 306KB) is required for all activities conducted off-site.


Principals make final supervision decisions for the activity. Sufficient adult supervision must be provided to manage the activity safely (including emergency situations).

Note: Lifeguard services are not considered as supervisors of the activity

For activities with students with a medical condition or disability that may impact on safety during the activity, consultation with parents is required prior to allocating supervision to determine the impact of students’ medical condition or disability on safety during the activity.

The number of adult supervisors required to fulfil emergency and supervision roles must consider the nature of the activity, students’ ages, swimming competence and specialised learning, access and/or health needs.

  • Beginner surfers require a ratio of 1 accredited coach to 6 participants.
  • For activities with a class group of students in years 7–12 who are determined to be water-safe in the activity location (e.g. surf survival certificate), one registered teacher may be sufficient to fulfil recovery, emergency and supervision roles for activities. In this situation, students must be inducted to respond correctly in an emergency by clearing the water, assembling in a safe area and providing assistance (e.g. seeking adult help, summoning an ambulance and/or acting in a support role in resuscitation).

Specific roles for supervisors must include recovery, emergency and general supervision roles. At no time should students be relied upon to recover a person in difficulty.

Before the activity, all adult supervisors:

  • must be familiar with the contents of the CARA record
  • must assess weather conditions and obtain accurate information on tides, depths, currents and other expected water conditions (if applicable) prior to undertaking the activity, inspecting the intended location in order to identify variable risks, hazards and potential dangers.

During the activity, all adult supervisors:

  • must be readily identifiable
  • must be appropriately dressed to perform an immediate rescue at all times
  • must closely monitor students with health support needs
  • must ensure all students in the water are in sight of at least 1 adult supervisor at all times
  • must comply with control measures from the CARA record and adapt as hazards arise
  • must not allow free-swim/surf activities
  • must continually monitor emerging surfing conditions (e.g. rips, sweeps, currents, undertows)
  • must suspend the activity if the conditions become unfavourable or when environmental warnings have been issued (e.g. hazardous surfing or water conditions, thunderstorms, lifeguard warning).

Consider using a whistle for command signalling.

Supervisor qualifications

Principals make final decisions in determining supervisor capability (competence, relevance and currency) and are responsible for encouraging and enabling school-based activity supervisors to raise their qualifications to improve safety standards.

All adult supervisors must comply with the working with children authority—blue cards procedure and be able to identify, and respond to, risks or hazards that may emerge during the activity.

A registered teacher must be appointed to maintain overall responsibility for the activity.

At least 1 adult supervisor is required to have a demonstrated capacity to perform an appropriate rescue procedure, including using appropriate rescue aids.

At least one adult supervisor is required to be:

Facilities and equipment

The qualified adult supervisor of the activity, in consultation with the principal, determines the requirements for facilities and equipment appropriate to the local context.

Location must be suitable for the activity being undertaken to ensure safe participation and that safety rules and procedures can be followed. Assess suitability of surrounds and reach of water when selecting a location. Consider local water and surf conditions and foreseeable hazards such as:

  • tidal flow and currents
  • use by other watercraft and traffic patterns
  • water temperature, depth and visibility
  • underwater hazards (e.g. rocks, reef) and dangerous marine organisms.

Provide a clearly defined surfing area of an appropriate depth considering student age and ability. Depending on the location, rope floats or anchored buoys linked with ropes may be used to define the boundary. Surf only in depths appropriate to swimming competence.

Participants must wear personal protective equipment appropriate to the activity, the location and conditions (e.g. high visibility rash vest).

Each student must provide their own towel.

If privately owned equipment is being used, obtain principal approval and owner consent/insurance details prior to the activity.

 Common hazards and controls

Further to those listed, include any additional hazards and control measures considering the local context of the activity.

Environmental hazards Control measures
Animal bites/diseases

Adhere to the Surf Life Saving Queensland Marine Stinger safety guidelines. For further information about types of poisoning and treatment available, consult Queensland Poisons Information Centre or phone 13 11 26.

Do not deliberately handle marine organisms. Avoid contact where possible.

Continually assess threat of dangerous marine organisms appropriate to location.

Biological hazards
Body fluids (e.g. blood, saliva, sweat)

Check with the local authority (lifeguard service) for the presence of known water contaminants (e.g. effluent) or other marine hazards at the location.

Manage bodily substances (e.g. blood) and open wounds before, during and after the activity. Consult infection control guidelines and Queensland Health’s exclusion periods for infectious conditions poster (PDF, 1.6MB) for hygienic practices and first aid.


Assess the location for floating debris before each session.

Environmental conditions
Weather, sun, cold

The school’s sun safety strategy must be followed.

Keep the pre-activity briefings short to prevent students becoming cold.

Follow the managing excessive heat in schools guidelines when participating in very hot or extreme heat conditions.

Ensure drink breaks occur regularly. Make water available for individual participants between drink breaks.

Facilities and equipment hazards
Control measures
Damaged or faulty equipment

Check equipment (e.g. boards, leg ropes) for damage and correct fit before and during the activity.

Provide initial instruction in calm water.

Clean and store all equipment safely and securely when not in use.

Entry/exit points

Use the designated board riding areas when conducting the activity on patrolled beaches.

Establish appropriate entry and exit points at the water's edge.


Watch for vehicles when loading boards.

Falling equipment

Tie down and store boards correctly to prevent injury (e.g. when loading/unloading).

Student considerations Control measures

Manual handling
Lifting and carrying equipment

Use correct manual handling processes when lifting, lowering, pushing, pulling or carrying (e.g. when loading/unloading boards).

Physical contact

Use soft boards and leg ropes for beginners and use nose-cones on boards.

Match equipment to the size, ability and strength of students (e.g. consider use of short and long boards appropriate to experience of surfer and the location).

Physical exertion
Exhaustion, heat/cold stress

Conduct warm-up/cool-down activities.

Continually monitor students for signs of distress (e.g. fatigue, hypothermia, exhaustion, illness, hunger, dehydration, difficulty breathing and hyperventilation).

Student issues

Implement procedures (e.g. surfer's out/in logbook) to account for all participants.

Limit the number of students in the water when close supervision is required and/or when the water is tending to become overcrowded.


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Last updated 14 July 2022