Special emphasis on paddleboarding laws this weekend

Clallam and Jefferson county sheriff’s offices will conduct safety emphasis patrols over the Labor Day Weekend that specifically target stand-up paddleboarders.

The patrols are part of a statewide effort, funded by Washington State Parks, to educate paddleboarders about laws and safe practices.

“Paddlesports is one of the great ways to experience the spectacular views and outdoor recreation that the Olympic Peninsula has to offer its guests,” said Undersheriff Ron Cameron with the Clallam County Sheriff’s Office.

“Because of the different levels of experience and ages involved with this type of activity, the Clallam County Sheriff’s Office would like to take a moment to remind everyone to also keep in mind their safety, the safety of others and the inherit dangers that can be present when participating in these types of water activities,” he added.

Detective Derek Allen with the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office agreed.

“People often think life jackets aren’t needed or required for paddleboarding, but they are,” he said.

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

• Life jackets — Everyone 13 or older must carry a U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jacket in good condition and the right size and type for the person wearing it.

All children 12 or younger must always wear their life jackets while onboard.

Inflatable life jackets are authorized only for people 16 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.

• Nighttime visual distress signal (such as flares) – required only on federal waterways.

The penalty for failure to carry the proper safety equipment is a civil infraction punishable by a fine of $99 for each violation. For example, if a stand-up paddleboarder older than 13 years old is found by an officer without an appropriate life jacket and sounding device — that is two violations and a possible fine totaling $198.

“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 Sgt. Eric Munger of the Clallam County Sheriff’s Office.

“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.”

Learn more about paddlesport safety by visiting www.paddlesafewa.org.

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