As Paddle Boarding Takes Off, Enforcement Officials Stay Busy Spreading Education

By Beacon Staff

I’ve officially been swept up in the paddle board craze. Often called SUP, stand up paddle boarding is an old form of surfing that’s recently taken off in the mainstream. As I’ve discovered this summer, it’s a great way to explore our many lakes and at the same time exert some pent up energy from a sedentary workweek.

I found out firsthand there’s some education needed with this new sport, though. The U.S. Coast Guard and State of Montana both classify SUPs as vessels, meaning paddlers need to have a suitable life jacket on hand similar to motor craft. In the past three years four people have died riding paddleboards in the Northwest, three in Oregon and one in Washington, according to the Coast Guard.

I was paddling on Whitefish Lake last week without a lifejacket when a local officer from Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks approached and informed me about all of this. For some reason I assumed I didn’t need a lifejacket. Most people do, according to the FWP officer. He said he’s been staying busy this summer spreading the word. He gave me a lifejacket for the day and was nice enough not to write me a ticket. But I felt I still owed some community service and should spread the word. Be safe and bring a lifejacket next time you hit the water!

For more information about safety on the water, visit FWP’s website.

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