Stand up paddle boarders must comply USCG requirements
Did you know that stand up paddle boarding has become the fastest growing water sport worldwide? Here in South Walton we have many standup paddle boarders ranging in skill level from first timers to experienced national caliber racers. Even these skilled paddle boarders follow the United States Coast Guard (USCG) requirements for this water sport. The USCG has written two important documents regarding safety for standup paddleboard that should always be strictly adhered to.
The first document written in 2008 deemed that all standup paddleboards would be classified as vessels. This classification would require the use of a personal flotation device (PFD), a whistle and lights if this “vessel” was used after sun down. This document was amended in 2011. The language stated if a paddle board was used within a designated “swimming, surfing or bathing area, it would not deem the paddle board to be a vessel per USCG. This change seemed very vague as there was not a clear delineation of where a “swimming, surfing or bathing area” was.
As a community leader in safety, South Walton Fire District (SWFD) highly recommends that ALL standup paddlers properly use a personal flotation device (PFD) as well as leash when surfing or paddle boarding in the gulf. It is also recommended that all vendors who rent standup paddle boards encourage the proper use of a leash to all its customers anytime they enter the water.
It is important to note that paddlers who venture outside the “swimming, surfing or bathing area” must comply with federal Navigation Rules. More information regarding water safety and water safety requirements can be found at www.uscgboating.org. Our lifeguards and emergency response personnel have responded to several incidents of persons that have fallen from a paddle board with no leash or flotation necessitating a rescue situation that can be corrected with awareness.
Stand up paddle boarding is a great way to enjoy South Walton’s scenic dune lakes and gulf waters. Weather conditions can change quickly and dehydration can occur within a short period of time from strenuous exercise. When venturing out into our open waters please use common sense and seek the advice of a qualified instructor if you are unsure of your abilities or knowledge.