Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources wardens answer common questions about paddleboard use in this article. These questions were taken by wardens on the beat and the DNR Call Center. The Call Center is staffed daily from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m., and offers bilingual service in Spanish and Hmong. The number is 1-888-936-7463.
Question: I am going to try paddleboarding in a couple of weeks on a Wisconsin trip with friends. Is it true I need a life jacket when I paddleboard?
Answer: Yes, paddleboards are considered boats. The law states you do need to have a life jacket with you when you enjoy the stand-up paddleboards. Make sure you pack a life jacket or rent one before you hit the water. The DNR wants you to have fun – and to be safe – while you are paddleboarding.
Question: Why do I need a life jacket? It's not like it's a canoe. It's just a board - a floating board.
Answer: Knowing that more than 90 percent of boat fatalities related to drowning involve victims not wearing life jackets, you need one for your safety. You also need one because Wisconsin law, as well as U.S. Coast Guard law, treats paddleboards the same as kayaks and canoes. This means there must be a personal flotation device – also known as a PFD or life jacket – for each person on board. However, the best way to obey this law and to ensure your safety is to just wear the life jacket.
Question: Paddleboards look like fun! But since I've never done it before, I'm wondering what other tips do the wardens recommend for novice paddleboarders like me?
Answer: The tips are the same for a novice like you and anyone who is experienced. Those tips from the DNR conservation wardens are these. Stay within your skills and abilities. Don't go paddleboarding alone. Watch the weather. And, take the time to educate yourself about this water activity.
Here is the list of tips for novice and seasoned paddleboardered offered by the U.S. Coast Guard. However, these also are good to know as a vessel operator or as a passenger.
• Wear a lifejacket and carry a whistle
• Be a competent swimmer
• Know how to self-rescue
• Know how to tow another board
• Know the local regulations and navigation rules
• Understand the elements and hazards – winds, tidal ranges, current, terrain
• Know when to wear a leash
• Be defensive – don’t go where you aren’t supposed to be and avoid other swimmers, boaters, paddleboards
• Use proper blade angle to be the most efficient paddleboarder
• And, take a safety course
Question: The last tip says take a safety course. Where do I find one?
Answer: The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources offers a free online paddling safety course for new paddlers to learn the basics and as a great refresher for experience paddlers. The course does not certify a person to operate a motorboat but is a great learning tool. To locate the course -- as well as other useful information about preparing yourself for fun and safety on your paddleboard and other vessels -- please go to this website: http://dnr.wi.gov/topic/boat/
Next, please click the paddling safety link below the “Before You Boat” tab. Or, go to the DNR website, dnr.wi.gov and search keywords ‘boat safety.’
The DNR and the conservation wardens work to help make it safe to enjoy the outdoors.
Have fun this summer!