Transport Canada’s revised stance on SUP PFD usage

For the past number of months, Bob Purdy and Stefan Idzan have been petitioning Transport Canada to recognize the standup paddleboard as a suitable safety alternative when combined with use of a worn board leash.

Well, it appears as though Transport Canada’s decision has been made, and it looks like PFD is still the law of the land when it comes to SUP. The following quote from Transport Canada’s website on April 16, 2012:

Transport Canada, like the United States Coast Guard, classifies Stand Up Paddleboards as human powered vessels when they are being used for navigation. When being used within the surf zone for surfing activities or within a beach area designated for their use (e.g. Jericho Beach in Vancouver), these requirements are not in force. When undertaking a trip or circuit such as a group crossing or solo outing, this is considered navigation.

As human powered vessels, Stand Up Paddleboards are subject to all carriage requirements, including lifejackets. There must be one Canadian approved lifejacket or personal floatation device available on board and available for immediate use. There are many PFD options available for ease of use, such as waist-pack inflatables (a popular choice among competitive rowers, who are also short on space and require a broad range of movement) or low profile paddling vests.

While we have received many requests for the consideration of a leash in lieu of a PFD, Transport Canada does not recognize the leash/paddleboard combination as a floatation device. The department has received many inquiries from Stand Up Paddleboarders regarding Section 4 (Substitute Safety Equipment) of the Small Vessel Regulations. This part is intended to provide like-to-like exemptions, for example for police marine units to make use of tactical PFDs, or for small commercial charter vessels to carry high buoyancy PFDs in place of small vessel lifejackets.

Transport Canada supports leash use, but not as an alternative to a lifejacket or personal floatation device.

RDIMS# 7464991

Judging from Transport Canada’s ruling, it sounds like Bob and Stefan’s efforts were indeed noticed, and though Transport Canada did provide clarification on PFD usage in the surf zone, they did not agree that the leash and board should be recognized as a suitable safety device to a PFD.


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