Oceans, lakes and rivers have all seen a recent explosion in stand up paddle boarding (SUP). Due to it’s increased popularity, the US Coast Guard classified SUPs as vessels in 2008, which means they have to adhere to the same regulations as canoes and kayaks when operated outside of surfing areas. Such regulations should always be followed not only for safety reasons and respect to others in the water, but also to avoid fines! The regulations listed below do not apply to flat water such as lakes or inland waterways.
Personal Floatation Device Coast Guard Approved (CGA) life jackets must be worn or carried in an easily accessible position when paddle boarding outside designated surf areas. While a ring buoy attached to the cord or a floating seat cushion are acceptable, wearing a comfortable life jacket is preferred by most paddle boarders. If you’re surfing waves on your paddle board, hence inside the surf zone, a life vest is not required.
Sound Producing Device The most basic and commonly used sound producing device is a police-style whistle. It’s a convenient solution for SUPs to comply with the requirement to carry a sound producing device and can be worn around the neck or attached to a life jacket. A whistle will facilitate hands-free auditory signals when help is needed. The whistle can also be used to signal to other vessels when changing direction and passing another vessel.
Visual Signaling Device If you’re heading out after sunset or before sunrise, a waterproof flashlight or headlamp is recommended by the coast guard. A headlamp offers hands-free signaling while a flashlight can be attached to shorts or a life jacket. Either way, the light will warn other vessels of your presence.
Other Restrictions State governments may have additional requirements so it is important to check local regulations. Even some lakes and inland waterways have their own regulations, so it’s best to do a little research to avoid fines and potential harm to yourself or others in the water. Adhering to all regulations will ensure an enjoyable time in the water!
The Future of SUP Regulations Since the paddle board itself might be classified as a PFD, there are some talks that the Coast Guard will revise their paddle boarding regulations to remove the PFD/life jacket requirement. Currently windsurfers aren’t required to wear a PFD since their boards are considered to be “sea-anchors.” Stand up paddle boards could essentially fall under that same category. In the meantime, don’t get caught beyond the surf zone without your life jacket!