In past years, standup paddle (SUP) boarding has been considered to be very much a niche sport in most places other than California and Hawaii and therefore, has lived in relative obscurity up until recently. However, with the increased availability of equipment and improved instruction of use, these boards are allowing almost any individual to enjoy the numerous rivers, lakes and coastal waters of our country with relative ease, resulting in the sport being viewed as the fastest growing watersport worldwide.
Unfortunately, when SUP boards first arrived to our country back in 2008, Transport Canada made the decision to classify them into the same class as kayaks and sailboards without any public consultation regarding the exact nature of their use. Kayaks, by Transport Canada definition, are deemed as being human-powered pleasure crafts and fall under the regulations of section 209 of the Small Vessels Regulation. Subsection 1 of section 209 reads that, "a human-powered pleasure craft shall carry on board a personal flotation device (PFD) or lifejacket that is of an appropriate size for each person on board."
The wording of the regulation has resulted in the common practice of SUP board users placing a PFD on the top surface of their board simply to appease law enforcement. Paddle for the Planet views this practice as being unsafe for the reason that the effectiveness of the PFD is negated due to the fact that the user is not required to be attached to the board holding the PFD and is at risk of becoming separated from both the board and the PFD if the user falls in the water.
Paddle for the Planet is spearheading an effort to have the Canadian Marine Advisory Council (CMAC) and Transport Canada recognize the use of a standup paddleboard as a suitable safety alternative when used in combination with a standard surf-style board leash as it provides the user with a readily accessible, inherently buoyant safety device that reduces the likelihood of personal injury or death in a manner that exceeds the level of safety afforded to the user under the current requirement of a PFD (worn or not) and no board leash.
We encourage all SUP users to join in the effort to amend the current regulation by forwarding their support to the CMAC, the Minister of Transport, the Office of Boating Safety, and Paddle Canada so that the topic will be included on the April national CMAC meeting agenda and continue to be a topic of discussion until changes that recognize the unique needs of the sport of standup paddleboarding.
The deadline for submissions this year is April 23, 2012, so please ACT FAST and SPREAD THE WORD!