The rules requiring a PFD may vary according to the type of water: surf zone, internal waters, harbors and other inland waterways. No regulations require the use of a personal flotation device (PFD) while using a SUP board in the surf zone. In this case it is being used as a surf board and some states including Florida require the use of a leash.
As of 2014 Florida does not define a standup paddleboard (SUP) as a vessel under Florida Statutes Chapter 327.
The U.S. Coast Guard (USCG), however, has determined that SUP boards operated outside a surfing, swimming or bathing area with paddles are “vessels” under USCG regulations except in the case of a marine parade, regatta, race, or similar event. Manually propelled (using your arms as opposed to a paddle) SUPs similarly do not require PFDs. The following refers to what that means for you when you’re outside those areas.
Each paddler must have a USCG-approved life jacket. It doesn’t have to be worn, although that’s certainly the wisest plan, and one which we strongly recommend.
Other Required Gear:
A whistle or other sound producing device must be carried to warn other boaters.
If you’re on the water after sunset, you need to have a flashlight, or similar lighting device, to warn other boaters.
Authority: 46 U.S.C. 4302 CGD, 72-120R, 38 FR 8115, Mar. 28, 1973
Written by LT Stephanie Young, Coast Guard Public Affairs, Salty Dog