Life Jacket Safety
“I am a good swimmer. I don’t need one.”
“It’s the bay, the shore is always nearby. I don’t need one.”
“I never fall in. I don’t need one.”
“My board will keep me afloat. I don’t need one.”
“They are not comfortable. I don’t need one.”
These are some of the many reasons people decide not to wear a life jacket. But here are some reasons you SHOULD wear a life jacket…
Someone runs into you while you are on your board and you hit your head and are knocked out. Wearing a life jacket will keep you floating with your head out of the water so you can breathe.
You fall and hurt an arm or leg making it very painful to swim any distance. Wearing a life jacket will reduce the energy needed to stay afloat and move towards safety.
Your leash breaks and your board floats away faster than you can swim. Wearing a life jacket will keep you afloat while you get to safety.
There are many styles of life jackets to suit may sports and body types. They have come a long way in recent years from the big orange horse shoes we used to put around our necks. Take the time to find one that suits your needs and is comfortable so you will want to wear it.
There are even PFDs for your dog. If you SUP with your pup make sure they have a life vest. It helps you dog if they fall into the water as well as giving you an easy handle to grab to help it back on the board.
It is important to know life jacket laws (Personal Floatation Devise -PFD) in your state. Not all states have the same rules and regulations. We are going to talk specifically about CALIFORNIA life jacket rules and regulations. For a full list of PFD regulations in California you can check here.
Under CA boating laws all PFD's must be worn/readily accessible on all SUPs on lakes, in the bay and open water (except when surfing). In this case we are talking about actual life vests not inflatable waist life vests that look like fanny packs. Readily accessible means that if something happens you can easily grab it and put it on. So, on a SUP it may be secured under the tie downs. But keep in mind, if you fall off and your board floats away so does your PFD.
In CA, children 13yrs and younger must wear a life jacket. The exception is if they are inside the cabin of the boat. On any SUP, kayak, canoe they must wear a PFD even if they are a strong swimmer. Inflatable PFDs are not approved for children under the age of 16 years old.
US Coast Guard-Approved Inflatable PFDs must be worn in order to be considered readily accessible. This means that tucking it under the tie downs on your board or canoe is not going to work. Make sure you wear your waist PFDs when out on the water. Also, check CO2 cartridges regularly, making sure they are installed and are not corroded. When you initially purchase an inflatable PFD the CO2 cartridge is included but NOT installed.
All PFDs must be kept in usable condition to meet legal requirements. Replace if badly torn, damaged, rotted, punctured, corroded, etc. PFDs that are damaged may not work properly which could put the person wearing it in danger.
It is better to be safe than sorry. It only takes one accident to ruin a perfectly fun outing on the water. Take the time to find the PFDs that work for you and your family and friends. West Coast Paddle Sports carries a wide variety of PFDs so you can find one that works for you or anyone else that is looking for one.