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Paddlesports Public Policy Issues

Everyday the ACA fields a call, answers an email, or attends a meeting that pertains to public policy issues that have the potential to affect all paddlers, whether you raft in Idaho, kayak the Nantahala River, canoe in the Boundary Waters, or SUP off the southern California coast.

New Lifejacket Classification?

For the last several years, the U.S. Coast Guard has been working to redesign the labeling for personal flotation devices to more effectively convey safety information. The current proposal is to remove type codes, aka Type I, II, III, IV and V, in regulations on the carriage and labeling of Coast Guard-approved personal flotation devices.

Learn more about how you can comment on this process.

No more Types?

Maryland Access to Waterways

House Bill 797 provides an important opportunity to expand the public's access to Maryland's waterways for fishing,canoeing and kayaking -- one that can be achieved relatively quickly and at little or no cost.

One way to improve access is along our State's bridge crossings, road ends or roadways adjacent to waterways when they are being constructed or reconstructed.

Learn more about this project...

Waterway access in Maryland

SUP - Lifejackets, Leashes, & Legislation

Stand Up Paddleboards (SUP) are now part of the ACA's National Paddlesports Instruction Program and there are several 'hot topics' for SUPs, including:

  • Leashes - when to wear them
  • Lifejackets - when to wear & what types to wear
  • Federal vs. State vs. Local carriage requirements

Read the results of the ACA's recent SUP Survey.

SUP Survey

National Recreational Boating Safety Program

More than just for power and sail, the RBS Program has implications for paddlesports as well.  For years, the ACA has been the voice of paddlesports on the national level committees that have been tasked with developing and then implementing the Strategic Plans.

To help the ACA in this task, please consider completing the above survey.

The primary focus of this national program is to reduce the annual number of injuries and fatalities to individuals who boat recreationally.

Strategic Plan of the National Recreational Boating Safety Program

Lifejacket Wear

This is quite possibly the 'hottest' topic in the greater recreational boating world, if it's not number 1, it's definitely in the top 3!

In regards to lifejacket wear for paddlesports: for some it truly is a no brainer, whereas others feel it should be their choice.  The background research on this topic has been extensive and it culminated in the National Boating Safety Advisory Council making a resolution to the USCG.  Currently the USCG has not decided how it will proceed at this time.  On the other hand, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has a mandatory wear program already in place.

We need to hear from you on this important issue.

Lifejacket Wear

Support for USGS Water Data

Save a streamgage. Want to learn if the streamgage on your favorite waterway is at risk? Want to learn how tohelp save it?

The ACA has provided a series of easy steps that you, and your paddling club can take.

Congressional Letter


Inflatable Lifejackets for Youth

Due to a wide range of differing state regulations in regards to PFD wear for youth, several national boating organizations have encouraged the PFD Manufacturers Association (PFDMA) and the USCG to increase lifejacket wear amongst youth. Currently, inflatable lifejackets can only be worn by individuals 16 and over.  A Youth Inflatable Standard is currently being discussed taking into consideration things like age, the ability to properly re-arm an inflatable device, body types, etc.

Inflatable Beltpack PFD - Photo courtesy of MTI Adventurewear


Currently in the initial phases of discussion in the greater recreational boating community is the potential mandating of Emergency Position-Indicating Radio Beacons (EPIRBs) or Personal Locator Beacons (PLBs) into the vessel carriage requirements. The driving force behind this discussion are the various Search & Rescue agencies responsible for assisting boaters at sea.

Current wording under consideration would require any recreational vessel farther than 3 nautical miles from land to have some type of EPRIB or PLB on board.  Probably not a bad idea, but let us know your thoughts anyway. 

EPIRBs - useful?

Mandatory Boating Education

Personal watercraft and motorized boats already have a range of regulatory requirements in regards to mandatory boating education.  As paddlesports participation continues to increase, and the number of deaths and injuries follow suit, more and more regulatory entities will begin to consider mandating some form of paddlesports education. 

Since 2004, the Coast Guard has sought legislative authorization to establish a uniform federal requirement for mandatory education of select boat operators (to our knowledge this does not include paddle craft).  At least two proposals have been submitted to Congress for consideration, but no action has been taken by them to date.

Mandatory Education - is it on its way?

Boat Registrations

Depending upon where you live, this may, or may not be a controversial topic, aka Ohio paddlers have been registering their boats for 30 years.

Imagine a kayak being blown off of someone's dock, downstream a well-meaning citizen calls 911 and a multi-agency full scale search & rescue operation is launched for a missing individual.  With a registration number, the lead SAR agency could have made a phone call and discovered that the individual was sipping coffee in their living room.

There are definite pros and cons to registering paddlecraft,  it's important for the ACA to know your thoughts as this state and national discussion continues to grow.

Boat Registrations

State Specific Issues

Whether it's carriage requirements in Massachusetts for low-light conditions, kayak fishing guide certifications in Texas, or "Patricks Law" in New York for lifejacket wear, the ACA routinely addresses issues important to paddlers at the state level.

Learn more about boating laws in your state

ACA - representing paddlers from coast to coast

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