The Washington State Parks Boating Program is calling on stand-up paddleboarders to be more vigilant regarding safety after four people have died using the boards in the last 30 days.
According to state recreational boating accident data, there have been six stand-up paddleboard fatalities in the state in the last 29 years, but four have occurred in the last month including one on Mountain Lake in Moran State Park on Orcas Island.
“The fact that we’ve had four back-to-back fatalities is alarming,” Rob Sendak, State Parks Boating Law Administrator, said in a statement. “Stand-up paddleboarding is typically a safe and enjoyable activity, but it comes with risks, and people underestimate those risks by not wearing a life jacket and leash.”
Federal and Washington state laws require everyone 13 years or older to carry a U.S. Coast Guard approved life jacket and it must be the right size and type for the person. Children 12 years old and younger must wear the jacket at all times while on board. Inflatable jackets are allowed only for people 16 and older. Additionally, federal and Washington laws require stand-up paddledboarders to carry a sounding device such as a horn, whistle or bell, a white navigation light during low visibility and a nighttime visual distress signal.
In addition to wearing a life jacket, Sendak strongly recommends that a paddleboarder use a leash to connect him/her to the board. Without one, even in a light breeze, the user can quickly be separate from the board if he/she falls off. Staying tethered to a board increases the chance to stay alive in an accident because the board provides additional flotation.