As part of a statewide effort, the Grays Harbor County Sheriff’s Office will conduct safety emphasis patrols over Labor Day weekend—specifically targeting stand up paddleboarders—to educate them about laws and safe practices.

In the last 29 years, Washington State has seen six stand up paddleboard (SUP) fatalities — four of those fatalities have occurred within the last 45 days and none of the victims were wearing a life jacket or leash.

What are the laws? Every vessel, no matter what size— including kayaks, canoes and stand up paddleboards—is required by federal and Washington state laws to carry the following:

  • Life jackets –
    • Everyone 13 years of age or older must carry a U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jacket in good condition and the right size and type for the person wearing it.
    • All children 12 years of age or younger must always wear their life jacket while on board.
    • Inflatable life jackets are authorized only for people 16 years of age or older.
  • Sounding device – horn, whistle or bell
  • White all-around navigation light – during low visibility such as dusk to dawn, fog or heavy rain
  • Nighttime visual distress signal (such as flares) – required only on federal waterways

The penalty for failure to carry the proper safety equipment is a civil infraction punishable by a fine of $99 for each violation. For example, if a stand up paddleboarder over 13 years of age is found by an officer without an appropriate life jacket and sounding device — that is two violations and a possible fine totaling $198.

“Stand up paddleboarders need to remember that as soon as they leave a designated swim area, they are considered a vessel and subject to recreational boating laws,” said Sergeant Jason Wecker of the Grays Harbor County Sheriff’s Office marine unit. “The law requires people to carry a life jacket. We strongly recommend people choose to always wear it, along with a leash, for maximum safety on the water.” Learn more about paddlesport safety by visiting www.paddlesafewa.org