The U.S. Coast Guard considers stand up paddle boards to be “vessels” when used “beyond the narrow limits of a swimming, surfing or bathing area”. That means you should be as prepared to SUP as you would be when handling a boat or other water vessel, and that you should be aware that many states also have licensing and life jacket requirements. As with any water sport, safety comes first for maximum fun!
So whether you are new to the sport or are as seasoned as Long John Silver, be aware of these top ten things to know about SUP safety and regulations:
ONE: Many states including our home state of Minnesota require stand up paddle boards to be registered as a watercraft and to display valid registration decals. Refer to your local DNR or license bureau for proper placement and display. (By the way, RAVE Sports’ soft-top paddle boards are the first in the industry to provide a special registration panel embedded on the top of the board for this purpose.)
TWO: Another Minnesota requirement and of many other states is that paddlers 13 years of age or older must have a U.S. Coast Guard approved Type I, II, or III or appropriate Type V life vest available to them, while those 12 years old or younger must wear the life vest.
THREE: If the paddler chooses a belt pouch-type inflatable personal flotation device, many states require that it be worn at all times.
FOUR: Motor and large sail vessels have the right of way over stand up paddle boards, so it is the paddler’s responsibility to know the rules of the water and stay out of their way. It helps to wear brightly colored clothing that allows others on the water to see you more easily as well.
FIVE: A whistle or other sound producing device must be carried to warn other boaters, if needed.
SIX: When paddling before sunrise or after sunset, a flashlight should be carried as well to warn others on the water of your presence.
SEVEN: Wear a leg leash, even if you are a competent swimmer, so that if you fall off the paddle board it won’t get carried away by wind and waves.
EIGHT: Be aware of the elements and environmental hazards, such as winds, tidal ranges, current, storms with lightening, etc.
NINE: Know where you are planning to paddle ahead of time and be aware of local regulations and navigation rules, and as with all outdoor activities, it is best to not paddle alone. If you do choose to paddle alone, however, let others know where you are going and when you plan to return.
TEN: Above all, just as with boating, use common sense and be defensive --- don’t go where it may be dangerous and avoid swimmers and others on the water.