It's important to understand that your paddle craft is considered a boat just like any power or sail boat. Because of this determination, you're required to carry specific items by law. By having these items with you, you'll not only avoid costly tickets but you'll be safer on the water.
First and foremost, paddlers need to carry a properly fitting, Coast Guard approved lifejacket in a kayak canoe or even on SUP with a leash. You must have a lifejacket for each person on the boat. Statistically a lifejacket is the single most important piece of life-saving equipment, so wear it.
The saying goes, "Don't blow bubbles, blow your whistle" because a whistle or other sound producing device is a great piece of safety gear to carry with you. Not only will the sound travel further than yelling but it's required by law to carry one on you. Just make sure that it's accessible and easy to blow, regardless if you're on or in the water.
The last critical item to carry with you when you're paddling is a white light that can be seen 360 degrees around your boat or board. This light is key in case your trip takes longer than anticipated and you end up having to paddle in low light or at night. Keep in mind that white lights are the only legal option because just like on your vehicle, different color lights mean different things to other boaters, and so they should be avoided.
Although not required by law, a bonus piece of equipment that should be considered, especially if you're paddling near commercial boat traffic, is a VHF radio. This handy piece of equipment will allow you to contact other boats or even the Harbormaster or coastguard, and will be invaluable in the event of an emergency. Just remember VHF radios come with their own set of user requirements so if you choose to carry one, be sure to get trained on how to effectively and properly use it.
There you have it, some key items to help keep things fun and safe on the water.
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