The Importance Of SUP Life Jacket and Leash - SUP PFD

Table of contents

1.Do you need a life jacket to paddle board
2.Detailed USCG life jacket regulations.
3.What if you don't wear a life jacket on your paddleboard
4.Do you need to use a SUP leash

Do you need a life jacket to paddle board?

The short answer is yes. Paddle boards now been classified by the USCG(United States Coast Guard) as a vessel, which means you must have a USCG approved life jacket with you for each person on the paddle board. Whether or not to wear it depends on you, but all the passengers on board who are 12 years of age or younger are required to wear one.

You might not think of yourself as a boater when you are on the paddle board but the USCG doesn’t think so. Remember, all the rules for small boat safety equipment apply to your SUP board and you’ll have to follow life jacket rules even though you are just riding on a manually propelled vessel. 

You’ll also have to have a whistle or other sound making device with you when you are paddling. If you are going to be paddling at night, you’ll need to have lights as well. 

But if you are paddle boarding in a surf zone or swimming area, you don’t have to have or wear a life jacket. A SUP life jacket is one of the most important piece of safety gear that you should definitely have in your SUP session, especially if you are going to be paddle boarding alone.

SUP board PFD

Detailed USCG life jacket regulations

Below are the detailed life jacket rules from NRS:

  • Each paddler 13 years of age or older must have a USCG-approved Type|, ||, |||, or appropriate Type V(see below) life jacket, it doesn’t have to be worn, although that’s cerntaly the wisest plan, and one which we strongly recommend.
  • A child 12-years old or younger must wear their USCG-approved life jacket. 
  • The jacket must be in “serviceable condition,” without rips, tears or deterioration that will diminish its performance.
  • The jacket must be of an appropriate size and fit for the wearer.
  • A Type V jacket can be used as long as it’s USCG-approved and applicable for the activity.
  • Belt pouch-type inflatable PFDs, such as the ones we carry, must be worn on the person to meet the life jacket regulation. For other types of inflatable PFDs, check the approval description printed on the unit for restrictions.
  • For all life jackets, be sure to read the label to know if special requirements pertain to that device.
SUP board PFD

Other Required Gear:

  • A whistle or other sound producing device must be carried to warn other boaters.
  • If you’re on the water after sunset, you need to have a flashlight, or similar lighting device, to warn other boaters.

What You Need to Do:

  • As the operator of a vessel, you need to follow the Navigation Rules.
  • You are also required to report any boating accident or injury to the local reporting authority, either the USCG or other agency that has been delegated that authority.

So be sure to bring the right gear with you and follow these rules to make sure you are legal under USCG regulations. 

PFD testing:

Whenever you are on a paddle board, consider yourself as the most vulnerable person on the water, because you are. There might be power boats and other crafts on the same area as you that you need to watch out for.

If you find a boat approaching or yourself in a dangerous situation, use your signaling devices to help them spot you. It’s also suggested you wear brightly colored life jackets because it’s easier for others to notice your presence and could be a life saver. 

What if you don't wear a SUP life jacket on your paddleboard?

If you don’t have a SUP life jacket or a sound making device with you, will you get a ticket for breaking the rules? The answer is yes. If you get caught violating the safety regulations by DNR or a water police, you can get a ticket and be fined for it. 

What type of PFDs you  can wear?

There are 5 types of PFD(Personal Flotation Device) available. 

SUP board PFD

Type 1 - These have a minimum of 22 lbs buoyancy and can turn your face up in the water. They can be used offshore. The downside is that they are bulky and not very comfortable to wear. But they are thick enough to provide some degree of insulation as well as flotation.

Type 2 - These can also turn your face up in the water but they are not as good at it as a Type 1 life jacket. They have 15.5 lbs of buoyancy and are designed for use in calm water near the shore where chance of being stranded in the water for long periods of time is minimal or non-existent. They usually come with a number of plastic side-release buckles to secure the vest on your body.

Type 3 - These are popular flotation aids made for calm and near-shore water sports where long wait times for rescue would not be expected. They are designed to keep you upright or vertical in the water. But they won’t be able to keep your face up in the water, you’ll have to place yourself in a face-up position. They have a minimum of 15 lbs buoyancy and are very popular for recreational water sports like stand up paddle board fishing, wakeboarding, water skiing, and jet skiing. 

Type 4 - These are throwable inflatable devices and they are not approved by the USCG for use by paddlers. They are basically a square flotation cushion or round throwable floaty which are not meant to be worn. They are meant to be tossed to someone who falls into the water by accident and is still conscious.

Type 5 - These are special use life jackets. They usually have a buoyancy rating between 15.5 to 22 lbs for adults. And they include a wide range of buoyancy aids like inflatable life jackets, paddling vest, windsurfing hardnesses. In order for a Type 5 jacket to qualify for the USCG’s paddle board life jacket requirements, a specialty use device must be worn at all times.

Do I need to wear a paddle board leash?

A leash is also an important safety item besides a life vest. A SUP Coiled leash can help prevent your board from drifting away when you accidentally fall into the water. It’s suggested you wear it in any condition where you will have a hard time swimming back to your board if you fall off of it.

paddle board leash

If you are paddling on a windy day in open rough water, you should consider using a leash because once you fall off, your board can drift away from you very quickly. A coiled leash would be a suitable choice for open water or lake paddling. If you have no idea of how to choose the right sup leash for your paddle board, then please diving in our article to learn more.

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