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California Life Jacket requirements


Under California boating laws all personal flotation devices (Type I, II and III or V) must be readily accessible and one throwable flotation device (Type IV) must be immediately available. 

With the exception of kayaks and canoes, every vessel must carry one wearable PFD for every person on board if it is 16 feet or longer.

California law requires that all type I, II, III PFD’s be readily accessible. This means they may not be kept inside a plastic bag or protective covering. 

Inflatable PFD must be worn in order to be considered readily accessible.

PFDs must be kept in serviceable condition. If they are badly torn, damaged, rotted, punctured, or otherwise unserviceable, they no longer meet legal requirements and should be replaced.

California boating law requires to wear a USCG approved life jacket for:

  1. all persons on board a PWC;
  2. anyone being towed behind a vessel;
  3. children under 13 years.

California State law requires that all children onboard under 13 years of age wear either a Coast Guard approved Type I, II, III, or V lifejacket while underway on a vessel which measures 26 feet or less in length. It is otherwise considered to be an infraction which is liable to a fine of up to $250.00

The law does not apply in the following circumstances:

  1. the operator of a sailboat on which every child under age 13 is restrained by a harness tethered to the sailboat;
  2. the operator of a vessel on which every child under age 13 is in an enclosed cabin.

 It is highly recommended that all boaters wear PFD’s.

See the California Required Boat Safety Equipment.