Recently, a paddler aboard a standup paddleboard (SUP) was directed to leave Iowa’s Lake McBride by a state marine officer saying that a boat registration was required. Which leads to the question: Are paddleboards boats?


Surprising to many boaters, the Coast Guard’s Office of Auxiliary and Boating Safety in Washington says they are, having determined that when beyond the narrow limits of a swimming, surfing or bathing area, a SUP is a vessel subject to the applicable regulations.


So far, state laws vary. Iowa’s marine patrol says, at present, that the only exceptions to vessels requiring a boat registration are inflatables 7 feet or less and canoes and kayaks 13 feet or less with no motor or sail. (Windsurfing boards require a decal due to the sail.)


SUPs’ intended use as a watersport activity is evident, as they combine the traits of surfing, canoeing and kayaking. Board manufacturers depict their products as multi-use intended for coastal areas and inland waterways.


Fines and penalties for non-registration can be steep, and as longtime readers will recall from past “Waterway Law” articles in HeartLand Boating, ignorance of the law is no defense. So, if you’re a SUP owner, be sure to check with your state boating safety office to see how paddleboards are categorized in your home waters, and act accordingly.