PFD for paddle boarding

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A PFD for paddle boarding is the safe way to go, but regulations vary.

The following statement is still controversial "A PFD for paddle boarding is the safe way to go." Use common sense to decide when and wear a PFD is appropriate.

United States:

According to Wikipedia, “[As of October 3, 2008, the US Coast Guard now classifies SUPs as vessels, and as a result SUP riders are obliged to wear a PFD for paddle boarding (personal flotation device) when paddling in certain areas. ...the Canadian Coast Guard has implemented similar rules, however SUPers are only required to have a PFD with them, they don't have to wear them.]” 

In the U.S, unless you are in the surf zone you must wear a PFD on lakes, bays and rivers. Because of the surfing influence we still see many SUPers not wearing them; old habits die hard. In fact, there is resistance from some SUPers who hold that it should be a personal decision. 

Personal Flotation Device (PFD) regulations for paddle boarding vary depending on the jurisdiction and the type of waterway you plan to paddle on. In general, however, wearing a PFD for paddle boarding is highly recommended for paddle boarders, regardless of the local regulations.

In the United States, the Coast Guard requires all paddleboarders to have a Coast Guard-approved PFD on board, but it is not required to be worn. However, some states and municipalities have their own regulations that may require the use of a PFD. It is important to check the local regulations before paddling.

When selecting a PFD, make sure that it is appropriate for your weight and the type of waterway you will be paddling on. A properly fitting PFD should be snug but not restrictive, and it should not ride up over your head when you are in the water.

Remember, a PFD can save your life, so always wear one while paddle boarding, and make sure it is in good condition and properly maintained.


Regulation states that you must have a PFD on the board, but there is no regulation for a leash to keep it there. On is an article poking at the ridiculousness of this. If you don't have a leash and become separated from your board, how will you put on your PFD? Paddle Canada's opinion on PFD usage:

When it comes to children, DON'T THINK TWICE: make sure they wear a PFD for paddle boarding. 

In Canada, PFD regulations for paddle boarding vary by province and territory. However, the general requirement is that a PFD must be carried on board at all times. In some provinces, wearing a PFD while paddle boarding is mandatory.

Here are some PFD regulations for paddle boarding in a few provinces:

  • British Columbia: All paddleboarders must wear a PFD, which must be properly fitted and fastened.
  • Ontario: All paddleboarders must carry a PFD on board, and it must be of appropriate size and in good condition.
  • Quebec: Paddleboarders must wear a PFD that is of appropriate size and in good condition.
  • Nova Scotia: Paddleboarders must carry a PFD that is of appropriate size and in good condition.

It is important to note that regulations may differ for different age groups and types of waterways. It is always best to check with the local authorities to ensure that you are in compliance with the regulations. Additionally, it is recommended that you wear a PFD while paddle boarding regardless of the local regulations to ensure your safety.

Why are some people not wearing PFDs? It comes down to effort, comfort and cost. Let's explore the various types and styles available. It is always the safer choice to wear a SUP PFD. 

Traditional personal flotation device 

With a PFD for paddle boarding, the more strap adjustments incorporated, the more custom the fit. The traditional style isn't popular among SUPers since they can restrict movement. But there are other options, and for a rider in an area with more degree of danger—on a "downwinder”, a rocky river ride , or a challenging river race—for a smart choice consider type III, streamlined, low profile, lightweight SUP pfds.

What happened when a 5-year old C02 cartridge was deployed

The following video shows what happened after deploying a 5-year old C02 cartridge from a Mustang waist pfd. I didn't expect such great results from a 5-year old C02 cartridge! This is a great review for Mustang although I still do warn that it is recommend to change the C02 cartridge every three years for peace of mind and safety on the water.

SUP PFDs / Vests

Fanny pack inflatable style SUP pfds

Many SUPers enjoy this ultra-light, wear-at-the-waist style designed with stand up paddle boarders in mind. Inside the pack is a folded, un-inflated, around-the- neck PFD. When needed, there’s a pull cord attached to a single-use Co2 cylinder connected to the PFD, which is itself is tethered to the bag so you can't lose it in the water. If the device fails there is a back-up "blow-up-yourself" tube. Many of these fanny packs include a whistle and other emergency features.

Over-the-neck inflatable style 

The same concept as the fanny pack style, this style is worn over your neck, lies fairly flat on your chest, and secures around the waist and back. It inflates with a pull cord connected to a Co2 cylinder that is replaced with each use. Some have the option to automatically inflate when the person wearing it hits the water. Online reviews report this style as comfortable while paddling.

REI video on over the neck PFD.

NRS quick release SUP leash

REVIEW: Mustang over the head inflatable

NOTE: There is controversy over how safe an inflatable PFD is in cases where a SUPer may not have a chance to enable inflation, or the PFD itself could be compromised. For example, it would not be wise to wear a fanny pack inflatable PFD while surfing on a rocky river. In this case, a proper vest/jacket and helmet are in order or a "quick release" style of leash.

SUP specific drysuit –"Surf Dry" Jacket  

In 2012 a company in Victoria, B.C. Canada ( designed the first drysuit specifically for paddle boarders called the "Soul". Today they offer the  "Heat", "Soul" and "Ignite". These suits are unisex in style and come in a range of sizes. See reviews at the following link.

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