With the popularity of Stand Up Paddleboarding (SUP), many are asking what kind of life jacket laws and other requirements have become part of this newly-exploding popular sport. Since the SUP is considered a vessel and not a surfboard, there are some things that we want you to be aware of before heading out to your favorite lake, river, bay or ocean.
Rules apply, according to the World Paddle Association (WPA), that are compliant with requirements for paddle boarding outside of the areas that are used for swimming, surfing and bathing.
US Coast Guard (USCG) Life Jacket Requirements
Most harbors and cities are now enforcing these rules:
All those 12 years or under must wear a USCG-approved life jacket or PFD
Those over 12 year of age must wear a Type III adult USCG-approved life jacket or PFD
Those within the surf line (SUP surfers) do not need a PFD
Other requirements regarding the Life Jacket include:
It must be in good condition
It must fit the wearer and be of an appropriate size
The WPA is seeking to amend this by inquiring if a leash can be a substitute for the PFD. This is because they feel that the big boards, 12'6" or larger, are a better flotation device than a PFD.
Although SUPs are considered vessels as far as the Coast Guard is concerned, they do not need to have an identification number and are not required to be registered.
Be aware that the right-of-way belongs to motor crafts and large sailboats over paddleboards or kayaks.
Types of PFDs
Although life jackets are usually worn for kayaking and boating, there is a type of life jacket that can meet the USCG life jacket requirements without the bulk. These are:
Inflatable PFD in a belt pouch
A Type V jacket, usually designed for cooler climates
The following is essential if you are paddleboarding:
Whistles are required gear
A headlight, headlamp or flashlight is a requirement if paddling after the sun sets
You will also want to have a leash to attach you to your board, so it won't float away. This is not required by law, but is a requirement for safety in case you lose your paddle and the only way to get back to shore is by floating on your board.
Now that you know what to wear paddleboarding that is required, you should also be aware of what is safe, although not required by law.
Cold Water and Weather
In cold weather and cold water, you will want to have the following, in order to avoid hyperthermia. Its in your best interest that you be comfortable and able to make smart decisions while paddle boarding. Clothing might include:
Neoprene top, shorts or wetsuit
Cap - wool or synthetic
To avoid heat stroke and hyperthermia in cold water, you will need:
Board shorts or swimsuit
Quick dry clothing
Have drinking water with you, if possible
Remember that SUPs are the smallest vessels on the water. To be extra safe, wear clothing that is brightly colored, use your whistle if not seen by boats and keep an eye out at all times for other boards, kayaks, boats and large vessels. Because boating accidents are often the result of alcohol, drinking and SUPing is also not a great idea; save the party-hearty time for later, when you are safely back on shore.
Life jacket laws are made for your safety, so become a smart and safe boater, while enjoying the fun of Stand Up Paddleboarding!