Travel insurance for water sports

Planning on enjoying some aquatic activities on your next holiday? Make sure your travel insurance covers water sports.

What would a beach holiday or tropical island getaway be without water sports? Pretty boring, that’s what. From fishing, snorkelling and scuba diving to jet skiing and parasailing, there are plenty of aquatic activities that can add relaxation and tranquility or adventure and excitement to your holiday itinerary.

However, it’s vital to make sure your travel insurance covers water sports before you get wet. Here’s how.

Does travel insurance cover water sports?

Yep, it does. From swimming to scuba diving, you can get travel insurance cover for an extensive range of water-based activities – but many Aussie travellers are unaware of this fact.

According to a survey of travel insurance behaviour by the Insurance Council of Australia and the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT), water sports are the most common insurable activities carried out by Australians overseas without knowing if their insurer covered it.

Of the 16% of people surveyed who participated in water sports on overseas holidays:

  • 55% were not definitely covered by their travel insurer
  • 51% didn’t even check their policy to find out whether they were covered

Considering the many benefits travel insurance can provide – headlined by cover for overseas medical expenses if you suffer an accidental injury – it’s crucial to check whether your insurer covers water sports before diving in headfirst.

What water sports are covered by travel insurance?

The cover available varies depending on what type of water sport you’re talking about. Recreational water sports, like snorkelling or kayaking for example, are usually automatically covered by most policies.

But if you plan on making a splash in a sport that’s slightly more extreme, such as scuba diving or white water rafting, your insurer may only cover you under specific circumstances. Depending on the insurer you choose, cover for your chosen sport may only be available if you buy an optional adventure sports pack or a special sports travel insurance policy, so read the PDS closely to find out how to get the protection you need.

For example, if you’re planning on exploring a beautiful coral reef on a scuba diving expedition, your insurer may only cover you if you either hold an open water diving licence (entry-level full diver certification), or you dive under the supervision of a licensed instructor. In many cases, you also must not dive deeper than a specified depth, such as 10 or 30 metres.

Our guide to scuba diving travel insurance can take you through the ins and outs of finding cover. For details on how a range of other common water sports are normally covered by insurers, check out the table below.

Water sportIs it covered?Terms and conditions
  • Yes
Automatically covered
  • Yes
Automatically covered
Stand-up paddleboarding
  • Yes
Automatically covered
  • Yes
Automatically covered
Scuba diving
  • Yes
  • Must hold an open water diving licence
  • Must dive under the supervision of a licensed instructor
  • In some cases, you will only be covered as long as you don’t dive any deeper than a specified depth limit, for example 10 metres
Shark cage diving
  • Yes
Covered as long as you meet the diving terms and conditions specified in the policy
  • Yes
Automatically covered
  • Yes
Automatically covered
White or black water rafting
  • Yes
Most standard travel insurance policies will cover you for white or black water rafting, but check the fine print to find out what grade of rapids are covered. Some policies will cover grades 1 to 3, others will cover up to grade 5
River tubing
  • Yes
Typically covered provided it is run by a commercial operator, is not extremely risky, and does not require special skills or a high level of fitness to complete
Water skiing and wakeboarding
  • Yes
Automatically covered (no stunts allowed)
Jet boating
  • Yes
Automatically covered
Jet skiing
  • Yes
You must obey any local water safety rules. In addition, some policies will exclude personal liability claims resulting from the use of a jet ski
Banana boat riding
  • Yes
Automatically covered
Dragon boating
  • Yes
Automatically covered
  • Yes
Automatically covered (however not all insurers will cover deep sea fishing, so check the fine print)
  • Yes
Not covered by all policies. You may need a special adventure travel insurance policy
Parasailing and paragliding
  • Yes
Not covered by all policies. You may need a special adventure travel insurance policy and may need to meet the following conditions:

  • Must paraglide in tandem with a licensed instructor
  • The equipment and service must be provided by a licensed operator
  • Yes
Automatically covered
  • Yes
Typically automatically covered when within a short distance of the coastline. However, cover and terms and conditions vary substantially between providers. Common conditions include:

  • Must stay within a specified distance of land, such as 10 or 12 nautical miles

Must only sail in areas with adequate telecommunications and medical insurers

  • Yes
Automatically covered but distance restrictions apply. You will usually only be covered as long as you stay within 10 nautical miles of any land mass.
Kiteboarding or kitesurfing
  • Yes
Usually automatically covered

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Make sure you read the PDS before buying a policy to know which activities you're covered for.

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What expenses does water sports travel insurance cover?

How can travel insurance help if something goes wrong while you’re participating in a water sport overseas? It can cover:

  • Overseas medical expenses. If you’re accidentally injured during your trip, travel insurance can cover everything from emergency ambulance transportation to surgical fees and hospital accommodation. So if you wipeout while surfing and get cut up by a coral reef, or if you break a leg in a freak water skiing accident, your insurer can cover your medical bills.
  • Medical evacuation and repatriation. If the treating doctor overseas recommends that the best course of action is for you to be repatriated to Australia, your policy can cover the cost of this process. Cover is also available if you’re injured or fall ill on a remote island and need to be evacuated to the nearest appropriate medical facility.
  • Loss, theft or damage. Travel insurance covers the cost of loss, theft or damage to your luggage and personal belongings. However, most insurers won’t cover your sporting equipment while it is in use.
  • Accidental death. Many comprehensive policies provide a lump sum accidental death benefit to your loved ones if you die as a result of an accidental injury suffered during your trip.
  • Total permanent disability. Many of these same policies also include a lump sum benefit if you become totally and permanently disabled as a result of an accidental injury suffered during your trip.
  • Personal liability. If you’re legally liable for compensation after accidentally causing an injury to someone else or damaging their property, your insurance includes personal liability cover.

Are there any exclusions?

Even if your insurer agrees to cover just about any water sport you can think of, that doesn’t mean you’ll be protected in all circumstances and scenarios. No cover is available if:

  • You participate in any kind of race or in professional sport of any kind
  • You fail to meet the terms and conditions that apply to cover for your sport, for example if you go scuba diving and you do not hold an open water diving licence
  • You intentionally expose yourself to a needless risk or fail to take reasonable care of your property
  • Sporting equipment you take with you is lost or damaged while in use
  • Your claim is for medical expenses incurred in Australia
  • Your claim arises because you were under the influence of alcohol or drugs
  • You fail to obey local water safety rules
  • You break the law
  • Your claim is for loss, theft or damage to a watercraft (e.g a jet ski)
  • Your claim is for search and rescue expenses (note that some insurers will cover these costs)
  • You ignore a travel advisory from the Australian Government
  • Your claim is for damage to sports and leisure equipment (e.g. a surfboard) due to normal wear and tear
  • Your claim arises because you sail more than a specified distance from land (e.g. 10 nautical miles)

Find out more about when you won’t be covered by your insurer in our comprehensive guide to travel insurance exclusions.

How to find water sports travel insurance

If you’re looking for water sports travel insurance, consider the following factors when choosing a policy:

  • What water sports do you need cover for? What water sports do you think you will participate in during your trip? To find this out, you may need to do a little research and find out what options are available at your destination.
  • How does each insurer cover those sports? Remember that some sports are always covered, some sports are only covered in specific circumstances, and other sports will only be covered if you pay an additional premium to purchase adventure sports cover. Professional sports and super-risky adventure activities will be excluded from cover altogether.
  • What else does the policy cover? Remember that travel insurance provides a wide range of benefits that can cover you during the rest of your trip, not just when you’re doing water sports, so check what else is covered. For example, does the policy cover stolen luggage, rental car insurance excess and theft of cash?
  • What’s not covered? Take a closer look at the list of general exclusions to find out when the policy will not provide any cover.
  • Are there any limits? In the table of benefits, check the limits and sub-limits that apply to each benefit. For example, while one insurer may offer unlimited cover for overseas medical expenses, another might impose a cap on the maximum benefit payable.
  • Who underwrites the policy? Rather than focusing on the insurance brand that sells the policy, read the fine print to find out who actually underwrites the policy. Choose a policy underwritten by a trusted provider with a good reputation for quickly paying claims.
  • How much does it cost? Enter your trip details and get a travel insurance quote. This is quick and easy to do using the travel insurance quote engine at the top of this page.
  • How does it compare? Don’t just choose the first policy you find; compare several policies that cover your chosen water sports to see which one is the right choice for your trip.

Frequently asked questions about water sports travel insurance

Tim Falk

A writer with a passion for the written word, Tim loves helping Australians compare and find the right products. When he's not chained to a computer, Tim can usually be found exploring the great outdoors.

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