SUP Safety Requirements Mandated by Law in the US

In this post, we will be focusing only on the safety requirements that are required by law for paddle boards as opposed to some common-sense safety recommendations that we offer here.

Stand Up Paddle boarding (SUP) has exploded in popularity over the last 12 years. In the early days of SUP, law enforcement treated SUP’s similarly to surf boards, however, back in 2010, the United States Coast Guard (USCG) officially classified stand up paddleboards (SUP) as a vessel.

This categorization means that paddle boards must comply with federal Navigation Rules and “carriage” requirements when operated beyond the limits of a swimming, surfing or bathing area.

In this post, we will be focusing only on the safety requirements that are required by law for paddle boards as opposed to some common-sense safety recommendations that we offer here.

All persons 12 years old and under are required to wear a a USCG-approved Type I, II, III, or appropriate Type V as long as it’s USCG-approved and applicable for the activity.

Paddlers over 12 are not required to wear their life jacket or PFD (although we recommend it) but they do need to have it with them one their paddle board.

SUP operators are not required to wear or have a PFD if they are in the surf line. So, SUP surfers are not required to wear a PFD.

The same requirements apply to kayaks and other manually propelled vessels of similar size.

Stand-up paddleboards are exempt from hull identification number and registration requirements though.

Also SUP paddlers should be aware that motor and large sail vessels have the right of way over paddleboards, kayaks and SUP crafts. 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.

TYPES OF PFDS

TYPE I: OFFSHORE LIFE JACKET

SUP Safety

All waters, especially open, rough, or remote waters where rescue can be delayed

Large and awkward; difficult to swim in

Adult size: 22 lb. of buoyancy.

Child size: 11 lb. of buoyancy.

Will turn unconscious wearers to face-up position.

 

TYPE II: NEAR-SHORE BUOYANT VEST

Paddle Board PFD

Calm, inland waters where there is a good chance of rescue

May not turn some unconscious wearers face-up

Adult size: 15 1/2 lb. of buoyancy.

Child size: 11 lb. of buoyancy.

Infant size: 7 lb. of buoyancy.

Will turn some unconscious wearers to face-up position.

 

TYPE III: FLOTATION AID

PFD Paddle Board

Calm, inland waters where there is a good chance of rescue

Wearers must put themselves in face-up position

Same buoyancy as Type II.

examples:

Float coat, fishing vest, water sport vest.

 

TYPE IV: DEVICE

SUP Safety Requirements

All waters where help is present

Not designed to be worn; intended for use in waters with heavy boat traffic

Designed to be thrown and grasped until rescued; never worn.

examples:

Cushions, ring buoys, horseshoe buoys

 

TYPE V: SPECIAL USE DEVICE

SUP

Specific activities; check approval condition on label

Some Type Vs are designed for cooler climates and others are approved only when worn

Some Type V devices provide hypothermia protection.

examples:

Deck suits, work vests, boardsailing vests

The most popular kind of Type V PFD’s for SUP is the “inflatable belt type” as it doesn’t encumber your upper body while paddling.

 

Inflatable belt PFD

SUP PFD

 

ADDITIONAL REQUIRED GEAR

The following gear is also required if you are paddle boarding:

• Whistles or other sound signaling devices

• A headlight, headlamp or flashlight is a requirement if paddling after the sun sets

• A signaling beacon or visual distress signal is also required if you are paddling after dark

 

Life jacket and signaling equipment laws were created for your safety so it’s best to abide by them. There are also fines attached for those that violate this law. Depending on the state or territory you SUP in, they can range from as low as $25 up to $1,000. So we advise that you do the right thing either for your own health or the health of your pocket book.

 

Related Topics

Learning Guide for Paddle Boarders

Things to Know Before Paddle Boarding in Winter

Places to Stand Up Paddle Board in Texas

SUP Gear and Safety Equipments