Are SUP boards vessels?

I have no use for one, but merchants seem to be advertising the stand-up-paddleboard as suitable for exploring and such. Pictures show them in use with no vests, line, sound-signalling devices, and obviously no bailer.

Do these things have to follow the small vessel regs, or are they considered pool toys or something like it?

I am betting

– Last Updated: Jul-20-10 7:34 AM EST –

that the phenomena is too new for most reg agencies to have formulated positions.

I say, if it looks like a surfboard, is used like a surfboard, and acts like a surfboard then it is a surfboard.

At the risk of sounding like an old fuddy-duddy (of course, I am one) I say "what is the point?"

As I see it, the sport is something new, appeals to younge folks, is "not your parent's canoe" and is edgy. Whoopie effin doo. Who carries the cooler? Who carries the bail-out gear? Who carries the folding chairs?

IMHO, SUPs are the wave-runners of paddle sports. And as I have said before, wave runners are like porch dogs: They periodically make noise, smell bad, occasionally chase their tails, and in the long run don't actually go anywhere.

Alert: I have probably P.O.d some advertizers. This post will disappear in .....10....9.....8.....7.....

Saw this on another site

– Last Updated: Jul-19-10 5:52 PM EST –

"The Coast Guard recently classified “paddleboards”, meaning Stand-Up Paddleboards (SUPs), as “vessels.” The newly classified vessels must comply with federal Navigation Rules and “carriage” requirements when operated beyond the narrow limits of a swimming, surfing or bathing area. Stand-up paddlers need a USCG-approved life jacket for each person, a sound signaling device (whistle), visual distress signals and navigation lights (flashlight)."

I have no idea if it's true but someone who sells PFD's says so.

I didn't realize that I was not in compliance not having an audible signalling device in my kayak. I guess that shouting doesn't count?


[edit] Found this press release. They are apparently vessels:

Coast Guard classifies paddleboards as vessels

WASHINGTON - The U.S. Coast Guard in a decisional memo dated Oct.3, classified paddleboards as vessels in accordance with Title 1 United States Code, Section 3.

This classification means that when used beyond the narrow limits of a swimming, surfing, or bathing area, no person may use a paddleboard unless in compliance with the Navigation Rules, and applicable carriage requirements for this type of vessel. This may include a Coast Guard approved life jacket for each person on board, a sound producing device, visual distress signals, and proper navigation lights. A police-type whistle and a flashlight comply with these requirements.

The Coast Guard has also exempted the hull identification number requirement from the manufacturing standards.

"In order to address safety issues and concerns the U.S. Coast Guard has researched the criteria, and has determined that the device known as a paddleboard is a vessel under Title 1, United States Code, Section 3," said Jeffrey Hoedt, chief of the Boating Safety Division, Office of Auxiliary and Boating Safety.

Director of the Oregon Marine Board, Paul Donheffner, reported that paddleboarding has been gaining popularity. Traditionally they were used to surf in the ocean, but are now being used not only in the ocean beyond surfing areas but also in lakes and rivers. It is important to note that paddleboards in the surf-zone will not be affected by the decision and that the Coast Guard does not define the limits of surf-zones.

The U. S. Coast Guard asks all boat owners and operators to help reduce fatalities, injuries, property damage, and associated healthcare costs related to recreational boating accidents by taking personal responsibility for their own safety and the safety of their passengers. Essential steps include always wearing a life jacket; never boat under the influence; successfully complete a boating safety course; and get a vessel safety check annually from your local U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary or United States Power Squadrons.

The U. S. Coast Guard reminds all boater's to "Boat Responsibly!" For more information on boating responsibly, go to:

Canoehead or pinhead?
They are only considered vessels where the Coast guard does not know what they are.

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A signaling device (whistle) is a
common requirement. Someone here reported being ticketed in Florida for not having one.

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I tow my cooler behind my SUP.

What is your cooler’s L/W ratio?
Any rocker? Or does it have a straight keel?


More Importantly-Hard or Soft Chine-NM

My good friend who served 20 years in the Navy corrected me one time when I referred to a Navy ship as a “vessel”, and he said:

“A vessel is something you use to carry liquid, or something you piss in.”

But I know for some of us on this board that could describe our kayaks or canoes :slight_smile:

We’re going to see more of them
I’m thinking that SUPs are here to stay. While I rarely see them on rivers, every race I’ve paddled in this year has had an SUP class that is well represented. While they have been no threat to the serious racers I’ve been passed by a few.

I expect that the designs will evolve rapidly as folks paddling them push into types of paddling outside of surf and flatwater racing. It would not surprise me to see heavily rockered whitewater SUPs and long skinny touring SUPs in the near future. On the Mystic I was passed by a longer skinnier “racing” board that may have given the serious racer some competition if he had not got a late start.

I can’t understand the antipathy towards them that some express. They are paddle boats plain and simple. Not that different from the canoes and kayaks we all love to argue about.

Sit on tops/Sail boards.

– Last Updated: Jul-20-10 5:28 PM EST –

Are "sit on tops" vessels? Are "sail boards" vessels?

If you want to avoid trouble, then assume the restricted case. That's assume they are vessels.

They almost certainly would be considered vessels in any place the Coast Guard would be concerned with.

The fact that people stand up to use them doesn't seem particularly meaningful (you can captain lots of vessels while standing up).

I agree
In fact, I would define “vessel” as being any type of conveyance on the water that can carry a person and is powered by some motive force (engine, paddle, foot pedal, etc).

If a raft is a vessel (and I’d contend it is), then one of these SUP’s should be a vessel. IMO.

Posted this one a while back

A fun look @ the current race boards with some of the best paddlers on Maui.

Both hard chine and soft chine boards in this video.

Announcement was made a while back requiring PFD and whistle. I can only see it enforced down here if paddlers doing something stupid around other vessels.


Did you call me a pinhead? If so, why?

my local paddleshop told me that a guy that bought a sup from them was just ticketed for not having a pfd and signaling device. The salesguy felt bad because he had previously advised the guy that he wouldn’t legally need any of that stuff!



I readily admit I know very little about SUPs, so I’m definitely not being critical. However,when I looked at the video you posted, it looked like a guy on a surfboard with a paddle to me.

What makes SUPs unique?

signaling device
Where I paddle a signaling device for a SUP is a HOOT to call a drop-in off the wave.

Things are going to get muddy if SUPs start doing distance runs on the river.

In the DC area on the Potomac they started to enforce having a PFD on SUP boards. Don’t have to wear it, just have it. Same for kayaks and canoes. I would guess if they get a SUPper at night, they’d ask for them to have a flash light too. Whistle? Probably too but the Police (not the Coast Guard in that area) are particularly picky about PFD and flashlights. Being the Police, some of these are quite arrogant (no excuse, but they are - having a uniform of some sort tends to change people and usually for the worse…).

kinda reminds me…
of the state by state motorcycle helmet laws. Like I’d ever ride with out one, full face no less!