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Friends learn a lesson the hard way

Marisca discovers through friends’ misadventure that lifejackets are required on a paddle board

Two friends of mine went out on their Stand Up Paddleboards (SUP) on a lake recently and it ending up costing them a lot of money.

They were paddling to a little island close to shore. There were people swimming and taking inflatable toys to that island.

It was a busy little hub of people recreating and splashing around. A police officer in a boat stopped my friends when they got to the island and asked them where their life jackets were. They weren’t wearing any.

They looked around and no one else was wearing their life jackets either. One of them asked the officer why they were being singled out.

It turns out it is the law to wear a life jacket on a paddle board. It doesn’t exactly make sense because there were people on floaties and swimming around them that didn’t need life jackets.

The officer explained to them that because the paddle board has a paddle, or something to move the thing with, it is considered a vessel and therefore life jackets are required.

I suppose there has to be a line somewhere. My friends had no idea and expected to get a warning. They did not. The officer then proceeded to write them a ticket and asked for their IDs.

My friend looked around, he was only in his bathing suit. He didn’t have any ID on him. My friend explained to me that the officer started to get frustrated and wrote him a ticket, telling him to be honest with his name and address.

The officer then wouldn’t let them take their paddle boards back to shore because they didn’t have life jackets. He offered them a ride in his boat back …. without life jackets on.

“To top it off, we could not paddle back from the island, so the police officer took us in his boat, with the paddle board hanging precariously across,” he said. “I asked the officer for a life jacket and he didn’t have one for me. So, now I’m in his fishing boat, trying to balance my paddle board, going quickly with a 20 hp motor. And we were dodging people swimming and resting on their dollar store floaties. How in the world does that make any sense?”

My friends said it was a strange encounter and this officer appeared to be on a power trip. In the end, they made it back to shore alive, each with a $240 ticket.

I had no idea that life jackets were required on a paddle board. I always make my kids wear theirs, it never occurred to me to wear one as well. I mean, I should have one on solely on the merit to set a good example for my children. However, after looking up the laws in Canada, that officer (even though he wasn’t nice about it) was right.

SUPs used for navigation fall into the same category as canoes, kayaks, rowboats, rowing shells, and other human-poweredboats less than six metres and you are required to carry mandatory safety equipment under the Small Vessel Regulations.

You either have to wear a lifejacket with a whistle, or at least carry one on board with a whistle and a buoyant heavy line. Tickets for those not complying can range from $200- $500.

According to Paddle Canada if you are paddling across a body of water, or getting from point A to point B, you are navigating.

So if you enjoy paddling, you’ve been warned. Let’s enjoy the summer and be safe about it.


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Marisca Bakker

About the Author: Marisca Bakker

Marisca was born and raised in Ontario and moved to Smithers almost ten years ago on a one-year contract.
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