Many stand-up paddleboarders unaware of rules

By Megan Kehoe • The Bulletin

As summer descends on Bend, it’s hard to miss the multitude of stand-up paddleboarders floating down serene stretches of the Deschutes River.

But many of these recreationists are unaware their perfect day paddling down the Deschutes could take a nasty turn and run them up to $400 if they’re not carrying several items — particularly a life jacket — required by state law.

“It’s lifesaving equipment,” said John Hise, manager of Tumalo Creek Kayak & Canoe. “People don’t realize it, but in water, anything can happen. You could have (a) medical situation out there — you could have a heart attack, a seizure … It’s best to just wear it.”

The sport of stand-up paddleboarding has exploded in popularity locally in recent years. And though it may appear to be a larger version of a surfboard to some, a paddleboard is technically defined as a boat, according to the U.S. Coast Guard, when it is used as a form of transportation. As required by law, paddleboarders must carry a life jacket on board their vessels at all times, along with a noise-making device, such as a whistle. Paddleboarders 12 and younger must wear life jackets at all times; boarders older than 12 are required to have the life jacket on board.

Additionally, paddleboarders with crafts longer than 10 feet must also obtain an aquatic invasive species permit to stay in line with the law. These permits cost about $5 and can be purchased online or at certain retailers.

Hise, who outfits paddleboarders at the Tumalo Creek shop, said Tuesday many recreationists running the river in the Old Mill District do not know about these regulations. “Many, many people are unaware,” said Hise. “Experienced boaters know these things. But a large number of newer boaters getting into the sport don’t know the rules.”

Fines for not complying with regulations include $260 for not carrying a life jacket, $110 for not carrying a noise-making device and $30 for not having an invasive species permit, said Ashley Massey of the Oregon State Marine Board.

While the Deschutes County Sheriff’s Office does not break down individual paddleboard citations, Deputy Liam Klatt said in an unofficial capacity, he often sees paddleboarders in the Old Mill District not following regulations. He said the marine patrol, a division of the Sheriff’s Office that enforces boat regulations, generally works to educate people when they catch them breaking the law.

“I would be willing to bet most don’t realize they have to have a whistle — same thing goes for the life jacket,” Klatt said.

Klatt said sometimes deputies will provide free whistles for boaters who don’t have them.

“It’s more of an education piece than being heavy-handed and giving out citations,” Klatt said. “But … it is in violation of Oregon state law,” he said.

Hise said he’s noticed more paddleboarders in recent years being cited for regulation violations.

Massey, the public information officer for the Marine Board, said in an email it seems that many newcomers to the sport are unaware of the regulations. She said she is sending all stand-up paddleboard and boat rental facilities in the state an information card about the equipment requirements.

Hise said, in general, life jackets will cost boaters $50 to $250, and a whistle will cost $2 to $6. Having those items combined with the invasive species permit for boating will keep paddleboarders from receiving citations.

Hise said that although regulations require adult paddleboarders to have a flotation device only on board the craft with them, he always recommends that all paddleboarders wear them.

“It’s like a seat belt,” Hise said. “It’s not going to do you a lot of good unless you wear it.”

— Reporter: 541-383-0354, mkehoe@bendbulletin.com

Andy Tullis / The Bulletin You need more than the paddle and board if you’re going paddleboarding. A life jacket, whistle or other noisemaker and an invasive species permit (depending on the size of the board) are all required by law.
Andy Tullis / The Bulletin Paddleboarders make their way up and downstream in the Deschutes River near the Old Mill district in Bend Wednesday afternoon. Adult paddleboarders are required to carry a life jacket by law, and children 12 and younger must wear them at all times.