by Savannah Vasquez

So you are vacationing in Destin and you want to take your family out on a pontoon for the day. Or maybe you brought your own kayak and you want to check out the dune lakes? While all rental companies provide customers with life jackets and other flotation devices, if you brought your own vessel or just want to know what is required by law in Florida, here’s what you need to know:

  • All children, under the age of 6 must wear a United States Coast Guard (USCG) approved life vest while aboard a vessel that is under 26 feet in length.
  • Every vessel that is 16 feet or longer must have a throwable personal floatation device that is USCG approved and immediately available.
  • Kayaks and canoes must have one life vest on board per person, and although they don’t have to be worn by adults at all times, it is recommended by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC).
  • Stand up paddleboards are considered a vessel if the board is beyond the swimming or surfing area. Meaning that, although currently there are no laws covering life vests on paddleboards in Florida, it’s a good idea to carry one if you plan to paddle away from the shoreline.
  • In addition to a life vest, a whistle or sound producing device must be carried aboard a kayak or canoe, and if operating at night, a white light must also be displayed aboard.

Most big retails stores along the coast carry life vests; Walmart, Kmart and Target for example all carry USCG approved life vests in various sizes. These work for adults, and even children. However, if you are looking for an infant life vest, you may want to do some further searching and visit specialized stores such as Bass Pro Shops, West Marine or The Kayak Experience.

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