Did you know that the US Coast Guard considers a stand-up paddleboard to be a vessel? I didn’t, and just happened to find out when looking for other boating regs. Here’s the word from the official Coast Guard blog.
What does this mean?
If you’re in a designated swimming or surfing area, not much. But outside those areas? Yeah, just like being in a kayak or small sailing dinghy:
- PFD — you must have a USCG-approved Type III PFD on board for each person; those 12 and under must be wearing it. The reality is that it’s better to be wearing it . . .
- Sound device — whistle or air horn capable of being heard a half-mile.
- Whistles are much better than air horns when SUP-ing as they are easy to attach to your PFD and a plastic one won’t corrode.
- “Regular” whistles with the pea inside often won’t work when wet. Instead, get a “survival” whistle that’s waterproof such as the JetScream (available from Amazon as an add-on if your total order is over $25) or the Hear-Me (also on Amazon, more expensive but no minimum purchase).
- Light — if using the paddleboard after dark or in fog or heavy rain you need a light . . . a waterproof flashlight “that can be used to avoid collision.”
- State or Local Laws — can impose additional requirements, so be sure to check. For example, some places require all SUP-ers, regardless of age, to wear their PDF (for example, the lake I live on during the summer makes SUP-ers follow the laws that apply to waterskiers).
The Coast Guard does not require paddleboards to be registered, and most states don’t either. Note that I said “most” not “none.” I know that Minnesota and Ohio require registration but I cannot find a comprehensive list of all states that require registration. Be sure to check where you are!
Use a Leash
While not a legal requirement anywhere that I can find, every paddleboard group that I can find says that wearing an SUP leash is probably the most important thing you can do safety-wise.
Reason? If it’s at all windy or there is any surf, the board will be taken away from you faster than you can swim (remember, one hand will still be holding a paddle and you may also have a dog or child to help). The SUP itself is a huge flotation device, but if you can’t reach it, it can’t help you (not to mention the loss if it gets blown out to sea and you never see it again).
This is the leash I got, which works for the longer length of most SUPs (regular surfboard leashes are too short). I find it very comfortable to wear (the ankle band is lined with soft material) and it doesn’t get in the way. When carrying or storing the board, I find it convenient to hook the ankle strap on the carry handle.
I’ve checked all over for the best price and got it on Amazon (of course):
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