U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary Public Affairs Officer Sandy Dalton on a paddleboard.

Being on a paddlecraft (kayak, canoe or stand-up paddleboard), boaters enjoy the feel of closeness with the water, the sun and the waves. So it’s not unusual for people to go out on a paddlecraft without a life jacket. But that’s no excuse not to wear a life jacket on the water!

Federal law states that all paddlecraft must carry one Coast Guard approved wearable life jacket for each person aboard. Though it is not required that adults wear a life jacket, one should be worn at all times when the vessel is underway. Children 12 and under must wear a life jacket when aboard any boat underway. A wearable life jacket can save your life, but only if you wear it.

Modern life jackets are available in a wide variety of shapes, colors and sizes. Many are thin and flexible. Some are built right into fishing vests or hunter coats. Others are inflatable — as compact as a scarf or fanny pack until they hit water, when they automatically fill with air.

According to the U.S. Coast Guard, in 2018 there were 263 deaths nationwide of boaters using canoes, stand-up paddleboards and kayaks. Also, 80% of last year’s fatal boating accident victims drowned, and of those, 84% were reported as not wearing a life jacket. Two-thirds of the victims were considered strong swimmers

The best life jacket is the one you will wear.

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