Avoiding Trouble: Coast Guard Regulations

Paddleboarding has grown rapidly over the past few years as people are coming to realize its flat-water potential. Once reserved for coastal surf, the sport has been migrating inland as enthusiasts-to-be recognize it as an approachable and versatile way to explore and recreate. 

Early on, this left the Coast Guard with an influx of new watercraft, but few tangible ways to regulate use and safety. They have enacted various laws to combat this problem and maintain order on the water, the most notable of which is classifying SUPS as "vessels". This means that, when beyond the limits of a swimming, surfing, or bathing area, federal Navigation Rules apply.

Below we have congregated laws that will keep you and others safe, and free from legal fines as well, when beyond the surf line or designated swimming areas.

  • All paddlers 12, or younger, must wear a USCG-approved life-jacket (PFD).
  • Paddlers over 12 must have a USCG-approved adult life jacked either on, or fixed to the board and available to use if needed.
  • All life jackets must be the proper size for the rider.
  • All life jackets must be in "serviceable condition" - no tears or other damage that would impact performance.
  • All riders must have a whistle or other audio signaling device.
  • If out after sunset, paddlers must have a flashlight or other light signal to warn other boaters of their location.

Conveniently, paddleboards are exempt from registration requirements and hull ID numbers. Always remember to give larger, powered vessels the right of way as well. Follow these laws and consider saving your alcoholic beverages for post-paddle refreshment and you should have a safe and fun summer!

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