I'm on the waters of Lake Washington 4-5 times a week and I've been watching you. And I worry about you. Really, I do. I think the SUP (stand-up paddleboard) phenomenon here is fantastic. It's a great chance to get on the water, work those shoulders/balance/core and take in some beautiful scenery while you are at it. For those of you that don't know me, I am a boater/waterskiier and I own a SUP too. I get it. But here's the problem----when I am boating and you are paddling straight across the middle of the lake, I CANNOT see you (especially at sunset). You look like a toothpick, which in other circumstances might be a compliment, however here it is not. I've been taking some photos lately so you can see what I am talking about. It's like a "Where's Waldo?" photo-shoot..
Maybe I'm getting old. I don't want to lecture, but I do want to make you aware because I know that you feel so tall and obvious standing there on your board..... but you are almost invisible, especially when you are dressed in a black wetsuit. There are no traffic lanes or speed limits in the open water and often boaters are looking into the sun and have a 30mph wind whipping them in the face (and unfortunately many aren't paying full attention or have a beer in their hand too). Stay along the shoreline if you can or wear some brightly colored clothing.
The US Coast Guard now considers a SUP a 'vessel' which means you must have a PFD on board and a sound-producing device (besides your voice). So now I see people paddling with a vest thrown on top of their boards. PUT IT ON. It seems slow and calm and harmless but nobody ever expects an emergency. "Boats don't have brakes and unconscious people don't float" was one of the notable comments I found on this US Coast Guard Blog about SUP. A few years ago I gashed my head open with my waterski in a bad fall---it was crystal clear on that day why you always have a driver AND a spotter. Never thought I would need my third person to help drag me out of the water and adminster first aid that day. Just like you never think you'd 'need' a lifevest on a paddleboard.
Paddle-boarding is totally worth trying if you haven't done it. Places like Perfect Wave do rentals by the hour and will get you geared up. Just be smart- wear your ankle leash, flotation device, a whistle, some bright clothes and stay along the shoreline where you can.
I spoke with Deputy Chris Bedker of the King County Sheriff's Office Marine Rescue & Dive Unit today. If you are in a designated swimming area, you are not required to have a lifevest (Houghton Beach, Juanita Beach, Waverly Beach Park). He emphasized that for kids 12 or under you MUST be wearing your PFD. The Deputy also advised that you wear brighter colors and be aware of the weather and water temperature and wear thermal protection accordingly. The fee for a citation of not having your PFD is $87, and they try give SUP's a break by giving warnings when you don't have your sound device on board. Enjoy these last weeks of summer........safely! ~j