Paddle Canada’s opinion on PFD usage

First, a bit of the back story… For the past few months, Bob Purdy from Paddle for the Planet and Stefan Idzan from Kelowna have been leading a grassroots push to change Transport Canada’s PFD laws for stand up paddle boards.

Reason being is that current Transport Canada regulations, in a nutshell, state that a stand up paddler must have an approved PFD attached to their board or wear an approved PFD while on the water, with no mention of a leash.

Bob and Stefan have been petitioning loudly on this matter, as they strongly feel that Transport Canada should recognize the wearing of either a leash, or a PFD should be the choice of the paddler depending on conditions:

The wording of the regulation has resulted in the common practice of SUP board users placing a PFD on the top surface of their board simply to appease law enforcement. Paddle for the Planet views this practice as being unsafe for the reason that the effectiveness of the PFD is negated due to the fact that the user is not required to be attached to the board holding the PFD and is at risk of becoming separated from both the board and the PFD if the user falls in the water.

Paddle for the Planet is spearheading an effort to have the Canadian Marine Advisory Council (CMAC) and Transport Canada recognize the use of a standard surf-style board leash as a suitable substitute safety device for the current PFD requirement as it provides the user with a readily accessible, inherently buoyant safety device that reduces the likelihood of personal injury or death in a manner that exceeds the level of safety afforded to the user under the current requirement of a PFD (worn or not) and no board leash.

(Source: PaddleForThePlanet.ca)

Stefan has also compiled a research brief demonstrating the leash as a reasonable alternative safety device to the PFD. Check it out here, definitely a worthwhile read.

So back in September, after receiving a number of emails from concerned stand up paddlers agreeing with Bob and Stefan’s position, Transport Canada requested the advice of Paddle Canada, a Canadian kayaking and canoeing organization.

After consulting their community of kayakers and canoeists, Paddle Canada’s governing board chose to ignore Bob and Stefan’s findings and formed the opinion that stand up paddlers should wear PFD’s at all times Click here to read the document detailing Paddle Canada’s opinion.

In fact, Paddle Canada’s board even went so far as to say “We feel that the combination of the two (PFD and the paddleboard leash) normally represents the safest overall option, given the risks of this rapidly growing paddle sport”… But that’s a whole other argument best left for another time.

So from here, Transport Canada will be making a decision on the matter sometime soon but it’s not too late for your voice to be heard.


To the casual observer, this might all seem like a minor point, but PFD usage is a major issue for stand up paddleboard enthusiasts.

Here are a few more of the hot topics:

  1. Stand up paddleboarding involves a significant amount of cardio work, and wearing a PFD makes for a sufficiently awkward and uncomfortable experience.
  2. While waist pack inflatable PFD’s are a legal and a reasonably comfortable option, arguments can be made to show that a simple leash is a superior safety device. Why bother with the added complexity and considerable cost ($100+) of an inflatable PFD, when a $20 leash can be shown to be just as, and even more effective than an inflatable PFD?
  3. If you were to fall off your board in windy conditions, where would you rather be… Connected to your board, or bobbing in the ocean wearing a PFD with your board nowhere in sight?
  4. Paddle Canada’s take on the matter… “PC requires that PFD’s are worn for all paddling programs including SUP.” (Source). This blanket statement applies ALL programs, including surf.  If you’ve ever surfed, you know this is a ridiculous implication and seems to illustrates Paddle Canada’s inexperience with surfing oriented sports.

You CAN make a difference here. Through this grassroots effort, Bob has managed to gather attention and start the dialog, and it’s now up to us to ensure fair and reasonable regulations are set in place to help grow this sport in the right direction.

Please post up here in the comments section, and be sure to visit PaddleForThePlanet.ca/PFD and tell Transport Canada know how you feel about this issue! And while you’re at it, get in touch with Paddle Canada to give them your thoughts on PFD/leash usage.

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