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Newport Harbor Commission floats idea of requiring leashes for rented paddleboards

Newport Harbor Commission floats idea of requiring leashes for rented paddleboards
Paddleboarders gather for a National SUP Day at the Newport Aquatic Center. The boarder in the foreground at right is using an ankle leash. (Daily Pilot/file photo)

The Newport Beach Harbor Commission wants companies that rent stand-up paddleboards to fit their boards with leashes as a safety measure.

The commission has been looking at paddleboard safety since early last year, focusing on rental companies, the panel's chairman, Bill Kenney, said. A paddleboarder's drowning in Huntington Beach last summer heightened the Newport Beach commission's concern.

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The harbormaster should make sure rental businesses have marine activities permits, and as a condition of that permit, customers must state in writing that they can swim, Kenney said. If they can't, he said, they must wear a life vest.

Under the proposed policy, paddleboards would be equipped with leashes, but their use would be optional, he told the City Council recently. That is in line with codes requiring all vessels, including human-powered ones, to have life vests and devices such as whistles onboard.

"We believe that these recommendations … will significantly limit the potential for a tragedy like the one that took place in Huntington Harbour," Kenney said.

The victim in that paddleboard-related drowning at Huntington Harbour reportedly was on a rented board without a life vest and did not know how to swim.

The City Council said it would consider the commission's proposal.

Meanwhile, of the 20 companies the commission contacted during a recent paddleboard study, only seven had the proper activities permits.

Local paddleboard outfitter Kelly Carlson said she supports leashes and emphasizing safety in general.

Carlson and her husband, Skye, own Balboa Water Sports, where they rent stand-up paddleboards and personal watercraft. She said the leashes would help keep children and weak swimmers safe.

"This is our livelihood," she said. "If we have someone die, we have someone get really hurt, there goes our livelihood."

Davis writes for the Daily Pilot.

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