The sport of SUP boarding has exploded. Thousands of new folks are getting on the water with their boards for the first time. It’s great, it’s fun, but you should know what you need to have and do to be legal on the water.
Patrick Dwyer informs that the U.S. Coast Guard has determined that a paddleboard is a vessel and is required to have the same safety equipment as other small human powered vessels, like canoes and kayaks. The Coast Guard classifies stand up paddleboards as vessels because they operate "beyond the narrow confines of a surfing, swimming or bathing area." Unless the paddleboard is being used within said “swimming, surfing or bathing area,” the paddleboard must have the approved life jacket for each person and a sound producing device on board while on the water. A "sound producing device" is a small whistle or horn that can be heard for a least one half nautical mile.
Whistles or other similar devices that can be attached to your life jacket should work well. If you are operating in limited visibility or at night, you will also need a flashlight or lantern that produces a white light. It should be displayed to approaching vessels in enough time to prevent a collision. The light should not be continually displayed.
If using a paddleboard offshore or on certain coastal waters at nighttime, visual distress signals may be required, per the Code of Federal Regulations.
This information on required equipment for paddleboards is general information and is not intended to address every situation on the water.
For more information on required safety equipment for boats, please visit Boating Regulations. For some valuable tips when you go paddle boarding, go to Link.
Life Jackets: Each paddler 13 years of age or older must have the approved life jacket. It doesn’t have to be worn, although that’s certainly the wisest plan, and one which we strongly recommend. A child 12-years old or younger must wear their special approved life jacket. Said jacket must be in “serviceable condition,” without rips, tears or deterioration that will diminish its performance. The jacket must be of an appropriate size and fit for the wearer. Belt pouch type inflatable PFDs (Personal Flotation Device), must be worn on the person to meet the life jacket regulation. For all life jackets, be sure to read the label to know if special requirements pertain to that device.
Sound producing device: In periods of reduced visibility or whenever a vessel operator needs to signal his or her intentions or position, a sound-producing device is essential. The navigation rules for meeting head-on, crossing, and overtaking situations are examples of when sound signals are required. The sound-producing device may be a whistle, horn, or bell that is audible for one-half mile. The device must be readily accessible to the operator of the boa, preferably attached to the life jacket.
Flashlight: If you’re on the water after sunset, you need to have a flashlight, or similar lighting device, to warn other boaters. Almost every boat is the required to carry a watertight flashlight. In the event of an electrical failure the watertight flashlight may be your only means of signaling for help. A watertight flashlight qualifies as navigation lights on non-powered vessels less than 7 meters. Check that the batteries are at a proper charge level and have a spare set of batteries at hand.
As the operator of a vessel, you need to follow the Navigation Rules. You are also required to report any boating accident or injury to the local reporting authority, either the U.S. Coast Guard or other agency that has been delegated that authority. On a SUP board you are about the most vulnerable person on the water. Watch out for power boats and other crafts; use your signaling devices to help them spot you. Wearing brightly colored life jackets and apparel in crowded waterways can be a lifesaver. Also, many boating accidents involve alcohol; it’s best to leave the celebration until you’re back on shore.
Stand-up paddleboards are exempt from hull identification number and registration requirements. Please know that motor and large sail vessels have the right of way over paddleboards, kayaks and SUP crafts. It is your responsibility to know the rules of the water, so be safe considerate of other large vessels. And remember to always paddle with a Standing Up paddle boarding buddy. If you do stand-up paddle alone, don't rely on inflatable personal floating devices. A little planning goes a long way, so it is a lot better to file a float plan whenever you SUP.