Standup paddleboards and lifejackets

Sheriff’s Department Press Release

Stand-Up Paddleboards (SUPs) are quickly becoming a popular form of on-water recreation. The US Coast Guard and State Boating Safety Officials are recognizing this and have issued statements about how laws and regulations apply to them.

The Coast Guard has stated that Stand-Up-Paddleboards are manually propelled “vessels” in the same class as kayaks, rowboats, canoes, etc. They are all vessels used for on-water transportation through the use of paddles or oars for propulsion. Although registration and numbering of manually propelled vessels is not required in Arizona or California, life jackets are required.

Arizona State law, ARS 5-331.A states:

All watercraft, except sailboards, shall carry United States Coast Guard approved personal flotation devices of the type and category prescribed by regulations of the commission. There shall be one such device in good and serviceable condition for each person on board and so placed as to be readily accessible for immediate use.

Arizona Game and Fish Commission Rule R12-4-511.B similarly states:

The operator of a canoe, kayak, or other watercraft shall ensure that the canoe, kayak, or other watercraft is equipped with at least one appropriately-sized, U.S. Coast Guard-approved, wearable personal flotation device that is in good and serviceable condition for each person on board the canoe, kayak, or other watercraft. The operator of a canoe, kayak, or other watercraft shall also ensure that the wearable personal flotation devices on board the canoe, kayak, or other watercraft are readily accessible and available for immediate use.

California law has similar provisions.

What this means is that each “operator” of a Stand-Up-Paddleboard is required to have a Coast Guard approved lifejacket on board, and available for immediate use. If there is more than one person on board the SUP, there must be a lifejacket for each person. In the case of children, 12 years old or under, they must wear the lifejacket.

SUPs are also considered manually propelled vessels to determine lighting requirements, when operating between sunset and sunrise or in periods of reduced visibility. Proper lighting for manually propelled vessels simply consists of a flashlight or lantern, capable of shining a white light in sufficient time to warn oncoming vessels of their presence. The white light should be visible for 2 miles. “Glow sticks” or any other colored lights should not be displayed, as they may be mistaken for red or green running lights of power vessels.

The decision to wear lifejackets on Stand-Up-Paddleboards, for those over 12 years of age is up to the individual user. But they must be on board and readily available.

Exceptions to the life jacket and lighting rules are given when the SUP is in a restricted swimming area or in a surf zone. In these situations they are essentially the same as surfboards or float toys.


  1. I feel safer already! What’s next, dogs playing fetch in the water have to have floaties under each paw?

  2. No, all peeps will have to wear life jackets if they want to boat or swim…..

  3. When all people have to wear life jackets to be in the water, drownings and accidents will skyrocket! It’s what happens when government controls your life from cradle to grave

  4. I think the cutie in the picture has the appropriate floatation gear.


    Reminds me, the bigger the boobs, the dumber the guy!!!!!!!

  6. Yeah… you might want to re-classify SUP’s if that’s your conclusion. The entire thing is a personal floatation device. Just like the thousands of people that float down the river on inner tubes every year without life jackets. The accident/drowning rate pales in comparison. Let’s maybe use some common sense and let people take responsibility for themselves…

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