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PDF Laws for Paddle Boards (SUP)

PDF Laws Paddle Boards (SUP)

SUP Paddle & PFD

PDF laws for paddle boards now require all users to have and for some wear a personal flotation device at all times.  The United States Coast Guard now officially classifies stand up paddle boards (SUP) as vessels.  This means, SUP users must comply with navigation rules , carriage requirements for PFDs, sou

nd producing device, navigation lights and accident reporting.  And in Colorado state boating laws require all paddle sports users under the age of thirteen must wear an approved PFD at all times.  This guide will explain choosing the correct one, how to fit this the right way and the different styles.

PDF for Paddle Boards – Choosing the Right One

A life jacket or personal flotation device must keep your head above the water.  When a PDF is fit too big,  it will be able to ride high up around your face.  If it has been fit too small, the PFD will not keep you afloat.  Most importantly, adult sized flotation devices will not work for children.

Try it on for size.

  1. Check the manufactures label to ensure that the paddle board PFD is a proper fit for your size and weight.
  2. Make sure your PFD is correctly fastened.
  3. Hold your arms straight up over your head.
  4. Ask a friend to grasp the tops of the arms and gently pull upward.
  5. Make sue there is not excess room above the openings and the PFD does not ride up over your chin and face.

For best results try the paddle board PFD is shallow water under safe and supervised conditions.

PFD Styles

Auto Inflatable

  • Inflates automatically upon immersion or manual activation
  • Comfortable and cool to wear
  • May turn unconscious wearer face up
  • requires regular maintenance
  • Not for children under 16 or non swimmers
  • This style is not for sports where immersion is excepted (whitewater paddling, water skiing, etc.)

Manual Inflatable

  • Only inflates upon manual activation
  • Comfortable and cool to wear
  • May turn unconscious wearer face up
  • Requires regular maintenance
  • Not for children under 16 or non swimmers
  • Not for sports where immersion is excepted (whitewater paddling, water skiing, etc.)

Belt Pack Inflatable

  • Inflates automatically upon immersion or manual activation
  • Extremely easy to wear
  • Requires regular maintenance
  • Not for children under 16 or non swimmers
  • Not for sports where immersion is excepted (whitewater paddling, water skiing, etc.)

Vest Type

  • May turn unconscious wearer face up
  • Requires little maintenance
  • Good for non-swimmers
  • Good flotation
  • Less bulky that offshore vests

Touring & Whitewater Paddling Jacket

  • Intended for canoeing, kayaking, rafting and whitewater activities
  • Special fit allows freedom of movement
  • May not turn a unconscious wearer face up
  • Requires little maintenance

Offshore Vest

  • Intended for boating offshore, open water, and coastal cruising
  • Offers the most flotation
  • May help prevent hypothermia
  • Bulky
  • Designed to turn an unconscious person face up

The Float-Shack will personally fit each member of your party with a USCG approved PFD.

Learn How to Properly Choose the Right Stand Up Paddle Board (SUP)
Learn How to Choose the Correct SUP Paddle

Additional Resources:

  • U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary – 202-372-1261  – www.cgaux.org
  • United States Power Squadrons® –  888-FOR-USPS – (888-367-8777)  –  www.usps.org
  • National Association of  State Boating Law Administrators – 859-225-9487  –  www.nasbla.org
  • The National Safe Boating Council – 703-361-4294  –   www.safeboatingcouncil.org

A woman carries inflatable board, paddle and PFD to Jenny Lake in the Grand Teton National Park.







SUP Leash?

Stand up paddling is an activity nearly everyone will enjoy.  Recent survey’s conducted showed the popularity of SUP growing at a tremendous rate.  Stand up paddle boarding was listed as the #1 sport in terms of new participants in 2015.   With all of the newcomers, some paddlers might think having a board and a paddle is all you really need to go out on the water.  Some thought and consideration to SUP safety must be a priority.

Safety for your Stand up Paddle Board Adventures

US Coast Guard classifies stand up paddle boards as vessels, which requires all participants to wear an approved PFD at all times.  In addition, the National Center for Cold Water Safety defines cold water at 77 degrees Fahrenheit or below, so proper water immersion gear is also necessary for many areas.

SUP Alta Lake

Two SUP paddlers enjoy and early spring float.

The SUP leash is overlooked in paddle board safety.  Things may change quickly, even on flat water.  Cold water, strong currents and even wind can separate a paddler from their board very quickly.  Therefore, a SUP leash may be referred to as a life-line while in an emergency situation on the water.

Smart SUP paddler’s will minimize and often eliminate most of their risk by choosing to use a SUP leash.   Furthermore specific SUP activities require different leashes.  Let’s take a look at some of the major differences in SUP leashes.




Best SUP leashes for surf will be at least 1 foot longer than the paddle board.  Look for a medium thickness, six (6) millimeters or thicker straight leash.  The straight variety will not tangle as easily as the coiled version and will allow the board to move away from your body without ricocheting back.  SUP surfers tend to use a calf style leash, helping to keep their feet free to cross step along the board.


Placid lake paddlers like to use a calf style coiled leash.  Most coiled variety will keep the leash from dragging in the water and be free from tangle around the foot area.
Coiled leashes do have their downside and have been known to ricochet back at the paddler in a fall.  Good practice will have paddlers fall with their feet towards the SUP and use their hands to protect their face and head in case of a ricochet.

River/ Whitewater

Special attention must be given to SUP leash selection for rivers.  An ideal leash for river SUP will be a coiled leash equipped with a quick release.  Paddlers should attach it around the waist or PFD to keep it from dangling in the water and potentially catching or snagging on the bottom.

The Float Shack offers both a coiled and coiled quick release leash for your SUP rental.  Most of all, your safety is our main concern therefore, we will choose the correct leash for your chosen float area and be sure to demonstrate the correct use and emergency release each and every time you choose to float with us.







SUP Paddle – Getting the correct one!

SUP Paddle – Getting the correct one!

SUP Paddle

A woman does some SUP (stand up paddle board) on Jenny Lake a the Grand Teton National Park.

It is important to become successful, in any activity, to use the correct gear.  Just as choosing the correct stand up paddle board, the right SUP paddle will enable a paddler to enjoy a full day without compromising comfort, strength or weight.  A few things to consider when choosing a SUP paddle: are size, construction and materials.  The best paddle choice will be light enough to use all day and strong enough to handle any conditions that might arise while on the water.  Your choice should also be comfortable, with the correct grip and length for a paddler to enjoy full days on the water.


There are a variety of materials used in the construction of SUP paddles, each with their own benefits and limitations.


The traditional material to craft the entire paddle or sometimes just the blade.   Lightweight and easy to access, wood paddles provide warmth to the touch that cannot be matched with man-made synthetic materials.  Wood paddles are beautiful and generally last for years.


Lightweight and stiff, fiberglass is used for both shafts and blades.  Provides a great balance between value and performance.


A great economical material, although slightly heavier and cold to the touch.


Another great economical material, although somewhat heavy.

Carbon Fiber:

The lightest weight material used for paddle construction.  Generally speaking, a lightweight paddle will cause lee arm fatigue.


The most crucial part in choosing a SUP paddle is choosing the correct length.  A SUP paddle that is too long will tire your arms as you hold them high out of the water.  And a paddle that is too short will stress your back as you bend forward to reach the water.

What length should I choose?  A SUP paddle will vary in length depending the type of paddling you plan to do.  Generally speaking, you will want to size your SUP paddle 10-12 inches taller than you if you plan to race, 8-10 inches taller if you’re cruising flat water, or 6-8 inches taller if you’re going to surf. Some waves.

Adjustable Paddles

Adjustable paddles have the ability to extend and lock into different lengths.  This feature allows more than one person to fit comfortably.

Custom Length

Some manufactures will sell their paddles with extra-long shafts.  This enables the paddle to be custom sized for the SUP paddler in the store.  The staff will measure, cut the shaft to length and glue on the handle.


SUP paddles are divided into two main types, one for the surf and one for cruising or touring.  The SUP surf paddle generally has a larger surface area for extra leverage against the moving water.   The larger surf paddle can be used for whitewater and SUP racing.

A touring SUP paddle will be slightly smaller surface area which helps to reduce the stress on the paddler’s arms while paddling long distances.

Some manufactures, such as NRS are creating a mid-sized paddle.   This size works well for touring and surfing waves.


Why the bend in the blade?

The bend in the SUP paddle, just above the blade allows for a more efficient stroke.  The correct direction will have the blade facing forward and the elbow of the bend to be pointing to the rear.  This may seem incorrect, but this allows the blade to slip effortlessly out of the water on the back of the stroke.  If the paddle is faced incorrectly, the blade will try and lift water up on the exit.  This places extra strain in the arms.


In conclusion

the correct SUP paddle will be 8-10 inched above your head.  A quick measure will be a comfortable reach to the paddle grip with the blade on the ground.   This method is fast when using adjustable length paddles on demo fleets.  By choosing a medium sized blade for your SUP paddle, you can ensure both wave surfing and touring paddling needs will be met.

At the Float Shack we offer two sizes of fully adjustable paddles with our rental inflatable stand up paddle boards.  Each size will accommodate numerous paddler height and reach.   Our adjustable paddles will work great for both flat water and river running.


Stand Up Paddle Board – How to Choose the Right One!

Two stand up paddle (SUP) boards float on a rocky shoreline.


Stand Up Paddle Board – How to Choose the Right One!

Stand up paddle board, or SUP as it’s commonly referred to, offers something for everyone.  Paddlers are able to catch waves in the ocean or head out for a relaxing paddle on a tranquil calm lake.  Some paddlers are seeking to do SUP yoga and some are looking for a fast paced, paddle style and core engaging work out.  Whatever your SUP goals may be, having the right gear will definitely make the difference in an average outing or a truly fantastic one.  To find the correct stand up paddle board, here are a few things you will want to consider.

HULL TYPE:  Two main choices, plaining hull and displacement hull.  Hull choice will be determined by the paddling activity you plan to do most often.

CONSTRUCTION:  Inflatable stand up paddle board, or rigid?  The board’s construction will affect performance, portability, price, weight and storage options.

BOARD VOLUME AND WEIGHT CAPACITY:  Stand up paddle board should be sized for paddler height and weight to ensure optimum stability and glide on water.

LENGTH AND WIDTH:  The length will effect maneuverability and wider boards are more stable on the water.

THICKNESS:  The board thickness relates to stability in relation to the rider weight.

FINS:  SUP boards fins add to stability and general board tracking.

SUP Hull Types

The hull or shape of a stand up paddle board plays a major role in determining how a board will react on the water surface.  Most SUP’s are constructed using one of two main types: plaining or displacement.

Plaining Hull – A plaining hull is generally flat and wide, similar to traditional surf board construction.  This designed enables the vessel to float across the water and be quite maneuverable.  Stand up paddle boards with plaining hulls are very versatile, making this stand up paddle board a good choice for:

  • Surfing
  • River Floats
  • SUP yoga
  • Fishing
  • Recreational Paddling

Displacement Hull – Stand up paddle boards with displacement hulls generally have a pointed nose/ bow similar to that of a kayak or canoe.  This hull is designed to slice thru the water, pushing the water around the nose to the sides of the SUP board to improve efficiency and create a faster smoother ride.  This added efficiency using a displacement hull requires less effort to paddle allowing the rider to travel farther and faster using the same effort.  This model, for the most part, track great, but loose some maneuverability as a trade off.

Paddlers choose displacement hulls for a wide variety applications, but always with an eye toward paddling efficiency. Some applications include:

  • SUP touring/camping
  • Fitness paddling
  • Racing
  • Fishing
  • Recreational paddling

Stand Up Paddle Board Construction

When thinking about SUP construction, there are two main types: inflatable or rigid/ hard.

The inflatable type feature durable PVC materials with a drop stitch construction that create an air core.  The drop stitch keeps the boards from bulging in the center while under extreme air pressure.  This style is sold with a pump for inflation and usually a bag for storage and transportation.

Paddlers tend to purchase the inflatable style for:

  • Paddling Whitewater: Similar to a raft an inflatable is better suited for brushing up against rocks in the river.
  • Traveling and storage: Inflatables will be much easier to store and pack for traveling to your favorite spot.  No need for surf racks mounted on your car!
  • SUP Yoga: The nature of an inflatable stand up paddle board is more comfortable during yoga poses.

The original paddle boards were rigid boards.  This type is generally regarded as more rigid than the inflatable ones.  This tends to create a more stable ride especially in choppy water or larger, heavier riders.

Why get a rigid stand up paddle board?:

  • Stability is important: A rigid board is a tad more solid than an inflatable board, which can provide a more stable feel, especially when riding waves. Rigid boards also tend to ride lower in the water, which can also create a more stable feel.
  • You want to travel fast and far: Rigid boards tend to have a bit less drag than inflatables. This means they can be faster and more efficient when paddling long distances.
  • You have a place to store it: Rigid SUPs can take up a lot of space. If you have ample room in your garage and a vehicle that can transport it, then a solid SUP is a fine choice.

SUP Volume and Weight Capacity

A stand up paddle board must work for your size.  When a board does not displace the correct amount of water for your weight, it will feel very unstable.  The SUP board weight rating and displacement are the two main factors in determining how stable a board feels on the water.

Volume:  The SUP’s volume, generally discussed in liters, gives an idea of its ability to float with weight on it.  The larger a board’s volume, the more weight the board can support and still feel stable.

Size and shape determine volume.  Smaller, fatter boards still have a larger volume, whereas longer, narrower boards will have a smaller volume, if thin.

A big rider looking to do a little surfing will want a shorter, wider board with high volume.

Weight Capacity:  Every NRS paddle board is listed with a weight capacity.  Too much weight on a board will cause it to ride lower in the water creating a less stable feeling and make it more difficult to paddle. In the inverse, a rider can never be too light for a SUP, so as long as you and your gear don’t out weight the maximum, then you’re fine to go paddle.

Stand Up Paddle Board Length

Riding wave in the white water park and fast paddling on a calm mountain lake are different variations of stand up paddle boarding that require specific length boards to maximize performance.  The general rule of thumb is, shorter boards are more maneuverable and longer boards ride faster.  It is necessary to understand hoe the length directly relates to board volume and weight capacity.  This relationship along with board width and thickness will ultimately determine how stable a paddler will feel.

Short SUP Boards (9ft or shorter):  This size is great for surfing waves or ideal for kids.  Short boards tend to be more maneuverable than longer versions making this a perfect choice for wave surfing and all around kid’s board.   Boards specifically designed for children usually have thinner construction, creating the right amount of float.

Medium Length Boards (9ft – 12ft):  These SUP’s tend to be great all around boards for wave surfing, river floats and calm lake fitness.

Long SUP Boards (12ft – 15ft+):  Longer boards are faster than shorter versions, plus the longer boards tend to track straighter.  Touring SUP’s allow for more gear to be stored on deck without compromising stability.

Stand Up Paddle Board Width

A stand up paddle board’s width is another important factor in determining stability on water.  SUP boards are generally up to 36” wide to accommodate a variety of riders and abilities.

Wide SUP Boards (31” or wider):  A wide SUP will be more stable than a narrow version making this easier to stand on.  However, a wide board will be slower than a narrow style.

Narrow SUP Boards (30” or less):  Narrow SUP boards are faster to paddle, but might feel less stable than a wider version.

Stand Up Paddle Board Thickness 

SUP Thickness:  A thicker SUP will be more stable for the rider, but will also be less responsive to the riders feel.  Heavier riders or paddlers with gear might opt for a thicker board.

SUP Fins

The fins on a paddle board add tracking and stability.  In general, the larger fins with wide bases and longer front edges will track straighter and provide more stability that smaller fins.   The benefit of a smaller fin is more maneuverability.


In addition to selecting the correct SUP board, we recommend to size and fit the correct PFD.  The US Coast Guard classifies a SUP board as a vessel, so it is required to wear an approved personal flotation device at all times.

Be safe and have fun.  At the Float-Shack, we will personal outfit you’re entire party with the correct SUP gear for your planned activity.  We offer home delivery and pick up helping you get to your float destination quickly and hassle free.  Give us a call to help you customize a trip today.  970-209-9747      BOOK NOW