In October 0f 2008, the Chief of Boating Safety for the United States Coast Guard (USCG) officially classified stand up paddle boards outside the surf zone as “vessels”. This means all stand up paddlers are legally required to wear or carry a personal flotation device (PFD).
The Human Powered Watercraft Association (HPWA) believes the ruling is seriously flawed because, although PFDs are appropriate in certain conditions, in most cases they are unnecessary and may actually hinder a stand up paddler’s safety.
A stand up paddle board has at least ten times the flotation of a PFD, keeps the paddler out of the water, and allows the paddler to remount after a fall and continue on. PFDs restrict movement and make paddling more difficult. Hence, most stand up paddlers choose to strap their PFDs to the board. In conditions of wind, waves, and tidal flow, PFDs make it more difficult to swim and recover the board. Firmly affixing a leash to both the paddler and the board achieves the highest level of safety.
The HPWA is petitioning the USCG to reconsider the classification and grant stand up paddle boarders the PFD exemption that windsurfers, surfers and prone paddlers enjoy.
To sign the petition and for further information, go to the HPWA website.
Stand Up Paddle Flatwater carries comfortable, unobtrusive life jacket
belt packs (like a fanny pack) as well as a variety of leashes.