Do You Need a Life Jacket on a Paddle Board?

Do You Need a Life Jacket on a Paddle Board?

Paddle boarding is a fun and relaxing way to enjoy the water, but it also comes with some risks and responsibilities. People often ask, “do you need life jacket on paddle board?” or “are life jackets required on paddle boards”?

The answer is yes. According to Transport Canada, stand-up paddle boards are considered human-powered boats when used for trips or group crossings. Whether you are paddle boarding on a lake, river, or ocean, it's compulsory for you to have a life jacket or a personal flotation device (PFD) that's approved by Canada on board for each person. This applies to all types of paddle boards, including inflatable, rigid, and hybrid ones.

Please Note:

The rules in section 4 of the Small Vessel Regulations about Substitute Safety Equipment don't allow you to use leashes instead of life jackets and PFDs. They only let you swap similar items, like using a high-buoyancy PFD instead of a small vessel lifejacket on certain boats. Transport Canada encourages using leashes for extra safety when paddle boarding, but they shouldn't be used instead of lifejackets and PFDs. Staying safe should always be your main concern when you're paddle boarding.

What If You Don’t Wear A Life Jacket On Your Paddle Board?

Paddle boarding without a life jacket can be dangerous and costly. According to the RCMP, paddle boarders must have a life jacket or a personal flotation device (PFD) on board, as well as a whistle and a buoyant heaving line. If you don’t, you could face a fine of up to $287.50. The RCMP also advises paddle boarders to wear a leash, preventing them from drifting away from their board in case of a fall.

What If You Don’t Wear A Life Jacket On Your Paddle Board?

Paddle boarding near shorelines, avoiding strong currents and winds, and checking the weather forecast are other safety tips recommended by the RCMP. You can choose to use low-profile vests or inflatables that you wear around your waist. These are easy to use and help enjoy the water safely and responsibly by following these paddle boarding rules.

What Type Of Life Jacket Do You Choose?

When participating in stand up paddle activities, choosing the appropriate life jacket is crucial for ensuring your paddle board safety on the water. In this regard, it's important to understand the different types of life jackets and which one is best suited for your paddle boarding adventures.

1. Kayak or Paddle Sport Type

These PFDs are designed with a specific cut that ensures excellent mobility. They are suitable for various body types and often feature multiple pockets for storing essentials like whistles, flashlights, and other accessories.

  • Suitable For: Paddlers who plan to use them frequently, especially during long expeditions.

2. Inflatable Waist Bag

These small inflatable waist bags are perfect for those who prefer not to wear a traditional foam PFD. They offer superior floatability compared to most foam PFDs and can be quickly inflated by pulling a designated cord.

  • Suitable For: Paddlers who want a minimalist and hassle-free option that must be worn rather than placed on the board.

3. Standard Type

These life jackets are the most accessible in terms of price, ranging from $20 to $300. They are safe and visible and tend to dry quickly. With an adjustable strap system, they can be customized to fit any body type.

  • Suitable For: Budget-conscious paddlers or situations where multiple people may use the same life jacket.

How Do You Choose A PFD According To Canadian Regulations?

Selecting the right Personal Flotation Device (PFD) is essential for safety on the water, and Canada has specific regulations in place to ensure your well-being. Here's a guide to help you choose the right PFD based on your needs and activities, along with some key considerations.

How Do You Choose A PFD According To Canadian Regulations?

Source: freepik

  1. Consider Visibility: While PFDs come in various colors, it's advisable to choose bright shades like red, orange, or yellow to enhance visibility when you're in the water.
  2. Assess Your Needs: Select a PFD based on your specific needs and the nature of your water activity. If you'll be operating at high speeds, opt for a PFD with three or more chest belts to ensure security.
  3. Cold Water Considerations: If you're planning to be in cold water conditions (less than 15°C), prioritize a PFD with thermal protection to stay warm and safe.

PFDs vs. Lifejackets: The Pros and Cons

When deciding between a PFD and a lifejacket, it's crucial to understand the advantages and disadvantages of each:

PFD (Personal Flotation Device):

  • Comfort: PFDs may be more comfortable for constant wear.
  • Design: They are lightweight, less bulky, and designed for specific sports activities.
  • Flotation: PFDs offer less flotation compared to a lifejacket.
  • Capability: They have limited capability to turn you in the water.
  • Protection: PFDs typically provide less thermal protection.
  • Maintenance: Inflatable PFDs must be used and maintained correctly to function effectively.

Inflatable PFDs:

  • Approval: Check if they are approved for specific boating activities under the Small Vessel Regulations.
  • Age and Weight Restrictions: Inflatable PFDs are not suitable for individuals under 16 years of age or those weighing under 36.3 kg (80 lbs.).
  • Types: They are available in vest types (which inflate automatically or manually) and pouch types (which can be orally or manually inflated).
  • Inflation Time: The inflation time is relatively short, which could be challenging for weak swimmers.
  • Backup System: All Canadian-approved inflatable PFDs have an oral inflation tube as a backup if the CO2 inflation system fails.

Before heading out, read the PFD manual carefully, try the device on under supervision, and ensure you know how to use it effectively.

Other Essential Paddle Boarding Gear

In addition to a life jacket or PFD, there are other essential pieces of gear that you should consider when paddle boarding. These items not only enhance your paddle boarding experience but also contribute to your safety on the water. Let’s take a look at some essential paddle boarding gear:

Other Essential Paddle Boarding Gear
  • Leash: A leash is a cord that connects you to your paddle board. It is typically attached at one end to the tail of the board and the other end to your ankle or calf. If you fall off your board, the leash ensures that your board doesn’t drift away from you. This is especially important in conditions with wind or current where the board can quickly drift away.
  • Whistle: A whistle is a simple but effective signaling device. In case of an emergency, you can use a whistle to attract attention and seek help. The sound of a whistle carries far and can be heard over long distances on the water. It’s a good idea to attach a whistle to your life jacket or PFD for easy access.
  • Buoyant Heaving Line: A buoyant heaving line is a floating rope that can be thrown to someone who has fallen into the water to pull them back to safety. It’s an important piece of safety equipment that can be used in rescue situations. According to Canadian regulations, the line should be at least 15 meters long.
  • Watertight Flashlight: A watertight flashlight is an essential waterproof light source if you plan to paddle after sunset, before sunrise, or when visibility is poor. The flashlight can be used to signal your position to other water users and to illuminate your surroundings. It’s important to ensure the flashlight is watertight to prevent water damage.

Additional Safety Considerations

In addition to choosing the right life jacket, here are some other safety tips to keep in mind:

Additional Safety Considerations
  • Weather and Winds: Always check weather predictions, paying close attention to wind direction and speed. Wind can significantly impact your paddle boarding experience.
  • Dress Accordingly: Depending on the season, wear appropriate clothing, such as neoprene gear or wetsuits in colder weather, to ensure you stay comfortable and safe in the water.
  • Hydration and Nutrition: Stay hydrated during paddle boarding outings, and use bungee elastics on your SUP to conveniently secure water bottles and snacks.
  • Inform Others: If you plan to go paddle boarding alone, inform a trusted person about your trip, including your departure and arrival times and the location. Carry a cell phone in a waterproof pouch for emergencies.

Summing Up

Finally, do you need a life jacket on a paddle board? The answer is yes. When paddle boarding, safety should always be the top priority. Wearing a life jacket or PFD and carrying other necessary gear is essential to ensure a safe and enjoyable experience. Choosing the right life jacket or PFD is critical to safe paddle boarding. You must select one that suits your needs and preferences while complying with the regulations set by Transport Canada. Always remember that safety should come first to make your paddle boarding adventures enjoyable and worry-free.


  1. Transport Canada. (n.d.). Choosing lifejackets and personal flotation devices (PFDs). Retrieved from
  2. Ruttle, J. (2023, August 2). Paddleboarding 101: Here are safety rules you need to know, say RCMP. Vancouver Sun. Retrieved from
  3. Taiga Board. (n.d.). Rules and Safety 101 in Paddle Board. Retrieved from