Life Jackets Required On Paddleboards

The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) reminds the public that standup paddleboarders in Wisconsin are required to have wearable life jackets of the appropriate sizes for each on board. Those age 12 and younger must wear their life jackets while paddling on federally managed waters.

Wearing a life jacket makes smart safety sense for all paddlers regardless of age or the law of the water.

“The department strongly encourages all to wear their life jackets even though jackets aren’t required to be worn in most areas of Wisconsin,” said Lt. Darren Kuhn, DNR Boating Law Administrator. “Quickly changing weather and water conditions can increase the chances of falling off or getting separated from your paddleboard. Wearing a life jacket makes these situations less likely to end in a tragedy.”

Federal, State Lifejacket Regulations   

U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) regulations require each paddler age 12 and younger to wear their correct-size life jacket when on federally controlled waters. In Wisconsin, federal waters include Lake Superior, Lake Michigan, Green Bay, Mississippi River and the St. Croix River.

While state law only requires the appropriate-size, wearable life jacket be on board with each paddler, the easiest way to carry the life-saving device is to wear it. DNR conservation wardens will check paddlers for the required lifejackets.

“Make safety a part of the fun,” Kuhn said. “It’s easier and better just to wear them.”

An accident can happen without a warning. The majority of people who drown know how to swim but become incapacitated in the water. Learn more finding the right life jacket on the DNR website.

Paddler Safety Tips

  • Stay sober.
  • Take a standup paddleboarding safety course through the American Canoe Association.
  • Paddle with a pal and let a third party know when and where you’re heading.
  • Check the weather and know the wind direction.
  • Match your outing with your skills. Steer clear of waterbodies with lots of traffic as waves will make for a bumpy, possible dangerous outing for you.
  • Get a dry bag for energy bars, sunscreen, first aid items, waterproof flashlight, and a waterproof holder for a cell phone.
  • Wear a whistle.
  • Wear an ankle leash in the event you fall off.