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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SUP Dog?

K9 Co-captains: They have their own seat in the car, keep your feet warm while you lounge, clean your plate when you you can't, help keep the jogging pace, and wouldn't have it any other way. Why then would anyone leave them to guard the cooler and hold down the towel during a paddle session? 

Many people cite that their dogs don't like the water, which may be a fair point. However, Sparky didn't like the car when you first adopted him. Probably didn't like the leash either. Now look at Sparky, he can hardly contain himself when the leash comes out and leaps into the back seat with enthusiasm normally reserved only for a darting squirrel.

The fact of the matter is, dogs are creatures of habit and people pleasers to boot. They live for you to get home from work and they always know its coming. You don't tell them you're getting home at 4:00 when you leave, they observe it and always waiting by the window when the time comes. You can't tell them that if they let you attach their leash it's time to go running, they learn because you do it consistantly. 

A paddleboard is the same way. If you try once and your dog is uncomfortable with it, well, so were you the first time. They need to be shown that it is safe, that you enjoy it, and that it is an opportunity to share time together and get outside. That's all they really want. 

Here are a few tips to get you started. Beyond these it's just the routine of getting them out of the house and paddling whenever you have time!

  • The more frequently you try, the sooner they'll be comfortable. They understand routine and practice.
  • They're keen on how you feel. Make sure you're comfortable first, so they know it's safe. 
  • Make sure they can swim
  • Get them comfortable with the water, carry them out from shore and let them swim back. This shows them that falling in is ok.
  • Store your paddleboard in a space where your dog spends time, so they're used to being around it.
  • Sit down on the board with them for a while. They will feel safer with you at eye level. 
  • Slowly work your way out from shore, going farther with each session.


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Paddle Spot: Spokane River

For those of you in our neck of the woods, the Spokane area, we discovered a convenient paddle just on the edge of town. It took us about 2.5 hours, but that included a rock-skipping competition and a side-journey through a shallow outlet to search for turtles.

Where to Start:

13026 Mirabeau Parkway, Spokane, WA, 99216

If you drive out to Mirabeau Springs there is a parking lot by the river that is the perfect place to put in. We left one of our cars there.

The Journey:

The paddle is only a few miles and is the perfect distance to kill an extra couple hours after work, that way you don't have to wait for the weekend to roll around to get on your SUP. While it does run near town, it feels surprisingly isolated and is a testament to our area's natural beauty, even near the city. The river is not too intense, so don't worry about running into whitewater, but it is still shallow and fast enough to keep things interesting. On our trip we saw lots of wildlife, most notably a large sturgeon and countless river turtles. There are many opportunities to explore shallow areas where the river breaks off into small streams.

Ending your Journey:

7414 E Upriver Drive, Spokane, WA, 99212

We got off the river at Boulder Beach, where we left our first car waiting for us. There we just rolled up our paddleboards and headed back for the second car before going about our evenings. No better way to transition out of work mode than to go for a quick paddle. 

If you decide to try this out, which we recommend, reach out to us and let us know how it goes! Paddle on!

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