Rules On Stand up Paddleboard By USCG

Stand-up paddleboard is a sport on the rise in the modern world. Many people, including beginners, are getting on the water with their boards for a great fun experience. However, most of them may not know what they need to carry and operate legally. If you're a paddleboard lover who wants to get on the water for the first time, you must pay attention to specific requirements.

But first, what's paddleboarding? While it's a fast-growing sport, you have to understand what it's all about; it involves a person standing on a board similar to a surfboard and using a paddle to propel themselves through the water.

According to the U.S Coast Guard (USCG), a paddleboard is a vessel in many situations. Therefore, safety equipment is a must-have for any paddler.

Summary of what it means to use a paddleboard:

  • Anyone using a paddleboard outside the swimming, surfing, or bathing area must carry a USCG-approved life jacket and a sound-producing device while on the water.
  • While it's not a must for paddlers to wear life jackets while on Florida waters(unless they're under six years of age), it's always necessary to carry a comfortable life jacket you can wear quickly while on the waters.
  • You must carry a flashlight or lantern that produces white light if you're on the waters at night or when there's limited visibility. It would be best to display it to alert approaching vessels to prevent collisions. Note that you should not display the light continuously.
  • Paddlers should also carry a sound-producing device such as a small whistle or horn, which can be heard for at least one-half nautical mile. Besides, attaching referee whistles or similar devices to your life jacket can be effective.
  • The code of Federal Regulations requires paddlers to use visual distress signals if they're operating offshore or on certain coastal waters during the night.

Let's now look at various regulations and what you need to operate a paddleboard while on the water. However, the required equipment and essential information for paddleboards may not apply to every situation during paddleboarding.

Paddleboarding rules and regulations

Life Jackets:

  • All paddlers( 13 years of age and more) must carry a USCG-approved Type I, II, III, or appropriate Type V life jacket. We strongly advise you do that even though you don't need to wear it.
  • When paddleboarding, children of 12 years and below must wear the USCG-approved life jacket.
  • Paddleboarders must go for life jackets of ideal sizes and those that offer a perfect fit.
  • It would be best if you carried a jacket that's in excellent condition; any tears, rips, or defects may diminish a life jacket's performance while on the paddleboard.
  • You can use your Type V jacket as long as it's applicable and meets the USCG requirements and standards.
  • Belt pouch-type inflatable PFDs must be worn on the person to suit the life jacket requirements. However, it's essential to check the approval description if you're choosing to use other types of inflatable PFDs.
  • Paddleboarders must check any particular requirements regardless of the type of life jacket they want to use.
  • Belt type or suspender inflatable PFDs are the most common type of PFD. Only paddleboarders of 16 years and older are allowed to wear these types of PFDs—everyone, including adults, should wear them at all times.

Navigation Lights

Paddleboarders are only allowed to use a navigation light after sunset or before sunrise while on the water. The flashlight or lantern should be used only as a navigation light. Navigation lights don't have to be installed on paddleboards.

Sound Producing Device

You must carry a sound-producing device to help you warn other vessels to prevent unnecessary collisions. You can either carry a small whistle or horn. A referee whistle can also work well while on the water.

Visual Distress Signal (VDS)

Paddleboarders are only allowed to use visual distress signals when operating offshore and at night. A VDS helps you alert other vessels or when rescuing a person within your area. Paddleboards of 16 feet or longer require a VDS both day and night if you're operating offshore. On the other hand, shorter than 16ft paddleboards require a VDS if you're operating between sunset and sunrise.

Vessel operator rules

There are specific rules paddleboarders must follow to stay safe. They include:

Navigation rules: Similar to road safety rules, paddle boarders must follow navigation rules to stay safe on the water. These rules enable you to navigate safely and avoid collisions with other vessels when crossing paths, are on course to meet head-on, or during overtaking. The U.S. Coast Guard has a system of visual, audible, electronic signals designed to help everyone on the water to navigate safely.

Accident reporting: All paddle boarders are required to report any boating accidents to the local authority, i.e., the USCG or any other appropriate agency.

Registration Numbers: All paddle boarders are required to register their paddle boards or show off their registration numbers.


Paying attention to the above requirements and rules allows you to operate legally under the USCG regulations. It's necessary to look into state and local agencies for any additional rules and requirements to be on the safe side. These requirements and laws may be more restrictive than the federal ones. 


Paddleboarders must understand that they're the most vulnerable people on the water because you can encounter compromising situations and unexpected collisions. It would be best to watch out for other vessels on the water to avoid unnecessary collisions. Ensure to use your signaling devices so they can spot you easily. It's necessary to wear brightly colored life jackets while on the water.

Also, remember to carry your navigation lights to help you during the night or when operating under limited visibility. Most importantly also is to report any accidents to the relevant authorities. Finally, many accidents result from fun and alcohol; it's always important to celebrate when you're back onshore.

Have a fantastic experience on your paddleboard but above all, ensure to emphasize safety. 







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