Boating deaths highest in 33 years; SUP ankle leashes on rivers discouraged

The Oregon State Marine Board is urging people operating stand up paddleboards (SUPs) on moving water (primarily rivers) to always wear a life jacket and never wear an ankle or leg leash that is designed for general flat water use.

“There have been four, really tragic fatalities in recent years where a person, otherwise well outfitted, died because their leash to the SUP became entangled in brush or other debris on area rivers,” said Randy Henry, Boating Safety Program Manager for the Marine Board. “Most ankle leashes used by SUP users are not designed for quick release. If you get it tangled on rocks or downed trees, the leash will hold you underwater.”

Most SUPs are equipped with a leash so the paddleboard can stay within reach if the user falls off.

On a lake or other still water, this is an excellent safety tool when used in conjunction with a life jacket, Henry said.

On moving water though, the leash can be deadly.

“Quick-release leashes are available and designed specifically for moving water,” he said. “It’s worn around the waist or can attach to the life jacket.”

2020 marks yet another sad milestone.

There have been 27 recreational boating fatalities this year, the most in 33 years.

Tragically, many were preventable, had the operator taken a basic safety precaution, like wearing a life jacket.

“SUPs are very popular, affordable, easy to purchase, portable, and are a lot of fun,” Henry said. “But understanding the basics is crucial.”

Henry suggested people check with the American Canoe Association or visit the Marine Board’s Paddling page for trip planning with safety in mind.

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