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Local/statewide emphasis focuses on paddleboarders

Montesano, WA – As part of a statewide emphasis over Labor Day weekend, the Grays Harbor County Sheriff’s Office says that they will have patrols that will be specifically targeting stand up paddleboarders.

According to a release, the GHSO says that in the last 29 years, Washington State has seen six stand up paddleboard (SUP) fatalities — four of those fatalities have occurred within the last 45 days and none of the victims were wearing a life jacket or leash.

Marine law enforcement agencies on Washington state’s marine and fresh waterways will be conducting safety emphasis patrols with the goal of educating residents about laws and safe practices.

“Stand up paddleboarders need to remember that as soon as they leave a designated swim area, they are considered a vessel and subject to recreational boating laws,” said Sergeant Jason Wecker of the Grays Harbor County Sheriff’s Office marine unit. “The law requires people to carry a life jacket. We strongly recommend people choose to always wear it, along with a leash, for maximum safety on the water.”

What are the laws?

Every vessel, no matter the size — including kayaks, canoes and stand up paddleboards — is required by federal and Washington state laws to carry the following:

  • Life jackets
    • People 13 years of age or older must carry a U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jacket in good condition. The life jacket must be the right size and type for the person wearing it.
    • All children 12 years of age or younger must always wear their life jacket while on board.
    • Inflatable life jackets are authorized only for people 16 years of age or older.
  • Sounding device – horn, whistle or bell.
  • White all-around navigation light – during low visibility such as dusk to dawn, fog or heavy rain.
  • Visual distress signals (such as flares) – required only on federal waterways.

“The law requires people to carry a life jacket. We strongly recommend people choose to always wear one, along with a leash, for maximum safety on the water,” Sendak added.

The penalty for failing to carry the proper safety equipment is a civil infraction punishable by a fine of $99 for each violation. For example, a stand up paddleboarder without an appropriate life jacket and sounding device could be charged with two violations for a possible fine totaling $198.

For more information about paddlesport safety, visit: www.paddlesafewa.org.

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