When I saw my first stand up paddle boarder [SUPer] down in Hood River OR I loved how simple an activity it was. You just needed a board and a paddle. You could use it on a lake, river or in the ocean. You could paddle for distance or catch waves. So simple. So much fun. I got a couple SUPs and have enjoyed them in Canada, the US and Mexico. It’s a great way to get some exercise and so easy to teach someone that it’s an awesome way to get your friends out on the water.
Sadly my days of SUPing like in the photo above have come to an end – at least at home….=-( The local Coast Guard has decided that a SUP is a small boat and must have life jackets aboard. There is some uncertainty if a SUP also needs a throw rope, a signaling device and other safety gear…*sigh*! Trying to SUP with a life jacket on is hard and not much fun due to the paddling motion. The rules don’t actually require you to wear the life jacket so if you can figure out a way to attach it to the board you can paddle without one on, but now it catches the wind and makes staying on course harder.
What’s really dumb of course is that a SUP is a personal flotation device! A much more effective one than a life jacket – especially one you don’t have to wear. SUPers have tried unsuccessfully to argue that the rules should require a SUPer to wear a leash which keeps them attached to their board rather than requiring a PFD. Under the current rules a SUPer could fall off their board and watch it sail away out of swimming distance with the PFD legally secured to the nose acting like a sail! Unfortunately this is far too rationale an approach for the authorities.
I’ve heard arguments made that SUPers need a life jacket because they could fall off their board and hit their head on it rendering themselves unconscious. It sounds reasonable, but upon further examination this is just more safety illogic. First off the rules don’t require SUPers to wear a PFD. They just have to have one aboard their vessel. Secondly the approved PFDs a sea kayaker or SUPer would wear do not support the head out of the water so an unconscious person will drown – it will just be easier to find the dead body!
So what am I going to do?
- I haven’t SUP’d near home in Victoria this year and I’m not highly motivated to given all the stupid rules being enforced for my safety.
- There is no Coast Guard presence up at Nitnaht Lake and SUPers can paddle their boards with sanity prevailing at this remote lake.
- Mexico doesn’t have any Safety Nazis enforcing goofy rules so SUPing there is still sensible and I’ll bring my SUPs south of the border when I can.
- I’m looking at an inflatable PFD at MEC. It costs $150 adds nothing to my safety given my 200L SUP flotation device, but it would get the authorities off my back so I may have to get one.
- I won’t modify my SUPs to strap a life jacket to the nose because 1) that’s a stupid place for a PFD and 2) I take them into the surf and any thing that can catch on your skin/wetsuit when tumbling in the waves is a safety hazard for real!
- Bottom line I’ll just SUP less than I would have last year when they didn’t enforce these rules.
Prior to the enforcement of these idiotic rules I was really hopeful that SUPing would be a game changer as it’s the simplest and cheapest way to get folks out on the water for some fun exercise. However, making people wear a PFD which hinders their ability to paddle or forcing them to spend $150 on an inflatable PFD will just add another hurdle to the process which will simply mean less people getting exercise and being a bit healthier.
I think we should start a new safety campaign - “Be most saferest! Stay at home in front of your TV and order a pizza. No helmet or life jacket required!“
What really makes me laugh is that kiteboarding is way more dangerous than either biking or SUPing and no helmet or PFD is required. Not to mention that I can skateboard around Victoria without a helmet, but if I want to ride one of those dangerous bicycles I have to strap on a skid lid ’cause the can kill you….LMAO!
If our goal as a society is to make getting exercise outdoors a pain in the butt we should congratulate ourselves – we are succeeding!