Throughout Canada and the US, many paddle boarders aren’t aware that there are actual laws on the books surrounding the use of PFDs (Personal Flotation Devices) while boarding. Curious as to whether you are obeying the law as you adventure on your SUP?
SUP Safety Laws within the US
In 2008, the US Coast Guard implemented a law in which SUP users must wear a type III PFD (i.e. a life jacket) when leaving a surf or swim zone. Also required are a whistle (both day and night) and a flashlight (only when the sun goes down).
SUP Laws within Canada
The laws within Canada are quite similar, the only difference is that paddle boarders only have to carry a type III PFD on board when leaving a surf or swim zone. Also, the whistle is a must, along with a flashlight after the sun dips beyond the horizon.
Arguments for and Against PFDs
As you can guess, life jacket laws have been a sore subject for the SUP community. The argument made by those who prefer the freedom of life without PDFs is that the board alone is a floatation device in the case of a fall. Additionally, many argue that it isn’t fair that windsurfers don’t have to wear PFDs during their adventures, as their boards are considered floatation devices in themselves.
Lawmakers have argued that water beyond the surf and swim areas can be quite uncertain and that a SUP can be swept beyond reach when a boarder falls. While there are merits to both arguments, the adage “better safe than sorry” may apply.
To avoid a costly fine and for increased safety, it may be best practice to follow the law. Regardless, you are sure to continue to have an amazing time on your SUP!