Paddleboarding and the RCM-SAR

Volunteer marine rescue services have played an integral role on British Columbia’s West Coast for over 150 years, and the Royal Canadian Marine Search & Rescue (RCM-SAR) represents these efforts in our present day society, and as a relatively new entrant to the marine user community, it’s important that stand up paddlers acknowledge and support the efforts of this organization.

Not unlike their land based search and rescue counterparts like North Shore Rescue, or Whistler SAR, RCM-SAR performs volunteer search and rescue activities on the waters surrounding British Columbia. The organization is comprised of over 1,500 dedicated volunteers spread out across almost 50 stations located all over the BC coast. That’s almost 30,000 kilometres of coastline, which includes 6,500 islands and about a half a million square kilometres of waters, where they perform over 700 search and rescue missions every year.

RCM-SAR got its start in 1978 as the Canadian Coast Guard Auxiliary, originally founded as an umbrella organization for marine volunteer search and rescue groups already in operation all over Canada. On the BC coast, the organization was called the Canadian Coast Guard Auxiliary – Pacific and in 2012, that name was changed to the Royal Canadian Marine Search & Rescue in British Columbia (RCM-SAR) in an effort to minimize confusion with the Canadian Coast Guard.

Here on the North Shore of Vancouver, we’re serviced by two stations… RCM-SAR 1, based out of Horseshoe Bay (with a second boat stationed at Fisherman’s Cove), and RCM-SAR 2, based out of Lynnwood Marina.

Being a relatively new sport, stand up paddleboarding has made for some interesting scenarios involving the RCM-SAR over the past couple of years.

  • January 2014: Simon Whitfield (not) rescued: RCM-SAR 33 in Oak Bay was called out to investigate a paddleboarder “in distress” under gale force winds. Ended up just being Triathlon Gold Medalist Simon Whitefield having a great time downwinding his SUP (source: RCM-SAR 33 on Facebook).
  •  September, 2013: Purported SUP in distress. RCM-SAR 33 in Oak Bay was called out to search for what was thought to be a paddleboarder far off the coast signalling distress with a flashlight. Turns out it was just a marker buoy that’d drifted up from American waters (source: RCM-SAR 33 on Facebook).
  • December, 2012: Mike Darbyshire standing on an overturned boat: RCM-SAR 27 Nanaimo was called out to investigate a person possibly in distress, standing on an overturned boat. Not to worry though, it ended up being Mike Darbyshire on his SUP, en route to Departure Bay (source: RCM-SAR 27 on Facebook).

Fundraising Initiatives

RCM-SAR’s primary fundraising initiative right now is to raise 2.5 million dollars to build out a brand new training facility in Sooke on Vancouver Island. More information can be seen in the following piece by Global TV. And while you’re at it, click here to donate now!

Another key fundraising initiative is for RCM-SAR 1 in West Vancouver, the busiest RCM-SAR station. They are currently seeking donations to fund the building of a new rescue boat to replace their 30 year old Howe Sound Rescue Boat. More information can be found on their website at

Check out the following links for more information on RCM-SAR:

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