Coast Guard S.U.P. Rules

Last weekend I noticed the aqua cops (regional police boat) stopping a number of jet skis, checking for safety and boaters cards. With the amount of sup’s here at the reef and that big North Shore SUP event coming up I thought it might be a good time to answer questions about  SUP safety.

Last summer I was told some sup-ers here on Lake ESuper SUP (5)rie have been warned/ reminded that a pfd (personal floatation device) is required on the sup, which has led to many questions about the rule.

I hope the info I provide will help inform and educate you so you can make a wise decision next time you are out on the water.

Transport Canada, like the United States Coast Guard, classifies Stand Up Paddleboards as human powered vessels when they are being used for navigation. When being used within the surf zone for surfing activities these requirements are not in force. When undertaking a trip or circuit such as a group crossing or solo outing, this is considered navigation.             

                As human powered vessels, Stand Up Paddleboards are subject to all carriage requirements, including lifejackets. There must be one Canadian approved lifejacket or personal floatation device available on board and available for immediate use. There are many PFD options available for ease of use, such as waist-pack inflatables (a popular choice among competitive rowers, who are also short on space and require a broad range of movement) or low profile paddling

This is the safe way
This is the safe way


                While we have received many requests for the consideration of a leash in lieu of a PFD, Transport Canada does not recognize the leash/paddleboard combination as a floatation device. The department has received many inquiries from Stand Up Paddleboarders regarding Section 4 (Substitute Safety Equipment) of the Small Vessel Regulations. This part is intended to provide like-to-like exemptions, for example for police marine units to make use of tactical PFDs, or for small commercial charter vessels to carry high buoyancy PFDs in place of small vessel lifejackets.      Transport Canada supports leash use, but not as an alternative to a lifejacket or personal floatation device       


So with all that offical stuff being said, it is probably a wise choice to have your pfd on the board if you do not wish to wear it. Probably also a good choice to have a whistle along too. We are all adults and can make our own wise choices. Be smart and safe and that should keep the aqua cops away.


Here are some other links to look at:

If you would prefer to not wear your life jacket but would like a pfd on board Body Glove offers an inflatable option which I found at this link .

Lets paddle


5 thoughts on “Coast Guard S.U.P. Rules”

  1. Interesting. A few years ago, I was ticketed by the NY DEC police for no flotation device while windsurfing. My research revealed that NY regs are to mimic federal law, which states that sailboards are not vessels, therefore my interpretation is that they are exempt, as a surfboard would be. The judge was not willing toi argue this, and advised me to return after the DA prepared his case!! I did not want to get a lawyer, and pled guilty. The assistant DA present reduced the charge to ‘illegal parking of a sailboard on Lake Erie, $75 fine, end of story.

    1. Everything I know about coast guard rules require a sailboard to be saftey equipped. I believe some confusion lies in the fact that there are soooo many agencies over seeing water saftey and the each have differant interpretations of the same rules.
      There is coast guard (U.S. and canadian) as well as local law enforcement.
      I have a hand out book from canadian boating saftey and they require a pfd and sound signal device on sailboards.

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