A guide for choosing a life jacket that meets correct safety standards.
With the steaming hot temperatures that have been sweeping across the United States this past week, nothing sounds better at the moment than spending this upcoming weekend cooling off outside in your local lake
or ocean and getting in some quality time with your stand-up paddleboard. This relaxing, simple sport is a great way to explore the waters in your area while having fun and getting in a great workout.
However, as tempting as it can be to paddle around without a life jacket, enjoying the feel of the sun and spray on your skin, the United States Coast Guard (USCG) has officially classified stand-up paddleboards (SUPs) as a vessel. This means that, in terms of personal flotation devices (PFDs), the rules for stand-up paddleboarders are quite similar to that of any other boater.
With the rapid growth in popularity of stand-up paddleboards in the last few years, the Coast Guard is cracking down on the safety associated with these vessels
to ensure the safety and health of all of riders. According to USCG law, the newly classified vessels must comply with federal Navigation Rules and "carriage" requirements when operated beyond the limits of a swimming, surfing or bathing areas.
This means that adult stand-up paddlers are required to have a USCG-approved life jacket (also known as a PFD) for each person aboard, a sound-signaling device, a visual distress signal and a navigation light (flashlight) on board. However, with all of the different varieties of flotation devices and life jackets available for people of all shapes and sizes, how are you supposed to know which PFD meets the correct safety standards for SUPs?
In the world of water sports, there are five different types of personal flotation devices:
· Type I - Offshore life jackets: These vests are designed for people in rough, open waters who need maximum buoyancy.
· Type III - Flotation aids: Type III vests are the most common type of flotation device required for water sports, and they are usually the most comfortable for continuous wear and freedom of movement.
· Type IV - Throwable devices: These devices are designed to be thrown to someone in trouble and work as a backup to a PFD. However, they should not replace a life vest or be used by non-swimmers.
· Type V - Special-use devices: These life vests are specialized for specific water activities only, and should only be used for the activity that is specified on the label.
So, which type of PFD is deemed appropriate for stand-up paddleboarding? According to the USCG, all persons aged 12 years and under are required to wear a USCG-approved life jacket, Type III. However, all operators over 12 years of age are only required to have a Type III adult USCG-approved life jacket or PFD either attached to the vessel or on the operators person. Currently under official review is this question: “if the stand up paddleboard operator is tethered (wearing a leash) to their board or vessel, can this be deemed as an alternate or replacement for having a PFD.” Some state and local governments have said "yes" meaning that a tether (leash) is a replacement for a PFD, but not all. To be absolutely certain about this rule you must check the rules specific to the body of water you plan to SUP. If in doubt, bring your PFD.
If you are looking for a comfortable and safe PFD that fills these requirements for your stand-up paddleboarding activities, the MTI Adventurewear Fluid Inflate Belt Pack
is one of the best options available for paddlers. So compact, you'll almost forget you're wearing it. Yet pull the cord and whoosh! The CO2 cartridge immediately activates and a life jacket bursts out of the pouch. Just put it on over your head, it is tethered to the belt pack around your waist so it won't float away.
No matter where you take your water activities this summer, be sure to follow set safety standards to ensure that no accidents getting the way of your fun!