Let’s Talk Propeller-Driven Surfboard-Type Vessels

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Background: Propeller-driven surfboard-type vessels

Propeller-driven surfboard-type vessels are single-person recreational vessels. Unlike traditional non-powered surfboards, propeller-driven surfboards don’t require waves or water current for their operation. Propeller-driven surfboards have a surfboard-like platform and a propeller below the board.

Like with a surfboard, users balance atop the board from a standing position and direct it by shifting their body weight. Unlike regular surfboards, these vessels are powered by a propeller below the board which is controlled via a handheld remote. Popular versions of propeller-driven surfboards are also connected to a hydrofoil arm that lifts the board and rider out of the water once it picks up enough speed. The board will stay raised until it slows down or stops.

Propeller-driven surfboard-type vessels have been banned in Canada since 1999. The ban applies to any surfboard-type vessel that includes a propeller, regardless of whether the propeller has a guard or not. In 1999, propeller-driven surfboards were mostly homemade and didn’t have to follow any requirements for how they were built or used. This lack of regulations made them risky to use and be around on the water.

Propeller-driven surfboard-type vessels are becoming more popular. This is partially due to safer and more efficient boards being available internationally. Many modern propeller-driven surfboards use an electric motor which is powered by a rechargeable battery, and can reach speeds up to 40 km/hr. While similar boards with other types of motors exist, the most popular ones rely on a propeller. This means that they can’t legally be used in Canada.

Our proposal

With safer and more efficient propeller-driven surfboard-type vessels on the market, Canadians want Transport Canada to revisit the ban.

Transport Canada has started looking at ways to update the Small Vessel Regulations to remove the ban and set rules and safety requirements for how propeller-driven surfboard-type vessel and other similar vessels are built and used.

These updates fall into three categories:

  1. Safety mechanisms
    • Require an engine cut-off switch be installed
    • Require propellers to be protected
  2. Safety gear
    • Require users to carry this safety equipment on board:
      • an inherently buoyant personal flotation device or a lifejacket in the right size for each person on board
      • a sound-signaling device
      • a compass, if the board is used out of sight of seamarks
      • if the board is used in periods of low visibility (like before sunrise or after sunset):
        • a watertight flashlight or distress signals, and
        • navigation lights that meet the requirements of the Collision Regulations, and
      • a buoyant heaving line that is at least 15 meters long
    • Operators that wear a personal flotation device or lifejacket while operating the board don’t have to carry a buoyant heaving line on board
  3. General use
    • Introduce rules that may:
      • set a minimum age requirement for anyone operating a propeller-driven surfboard, similar to personal watercraft
      • require vessel operators who are below the minimum age to be supervised by someone who is above the minimum age requirement, and
      • require vessel operators be connected to the vessel’s propulsion cut-off switch (for example, via a lanyard or wireless connection)

We want to hear from you

  1. Choose “Register” at the top of the page, and join the discussion under the “Have Your Say” tab.
  2. You can also submit your comments in a Word or PDF document through the “Submissions” tab (one or more documents can be uploaded).

Background: Propeller-driven surfboard-type vessels

Propeller-driven surfboard-type vessels are single-person recreational vessels. Unlike traditional non-powered surfboards, propeller-driven surfboards don’t require waves or water current for their operation. Propeller-driven surfboards have a surfboard-like platform and a propeller below the board.

Like with a surfboard, users balance atop the board from a standing position and direct it by shifting their body weight. Unlike regular surfboards, these vessels are powered by a propeller below the board which is controlled via a handheld remote. Popular versions of propeller-driven surfboards are also connected to a hydrofoil arm that lifts the board and rider out of the water once it picks up enough speed. The board will stay raised until it slows down or stops.

Propeller-driven surfboard-type vessels have been banned in Canada since 1999. The ban applies to any surfboard-type vessel that includes a propeller, regardless of whether the propeller has a guard or not. In 1999, propeller-driven surfboards were mostly homemade and didn’t have to follow any requirements for how they were built or used. This lack of regulations made them risky to use and be around on the water.

Propeller-driven surfboard-type vessels are becoming more popular. This is partially due to safer and more efficient boards being available internationally. Many modern propeller-driven surfboards use an electric motor which is powered by a rechargeable battery, and can reach speeds up to 40 km/hr. While similar boards with other types of motors exist, the most popular ones rely on a propeller. This means that they can’t legally be used in Canada.

Our proposal

With safer and more efficient propeller-driven surfboard-type vessels on the market, Canadians want Transport Canada to revisit the ban.

Transport Canada has started looking at ways to update the Small Vessel Regulations to remove the ban and set rules and safety requirements for how propeller-driven surfboard-type vessel and other similar vessels are built and used.

These updates fall into three categories:

  1. Safety mechanisms
    • Require an engine cut-off switch be installed
    • Require propellers to be protected
  2. Safety gear
    • Require users to carry this safety equipment on board:
      • an inherently buoyant personal flotation device or a lifejacket in the right size for each person on board
      • a sound-signaling device
      • a compass, if the board is used out of sight of seamarks
      • if the board is used in periods of low visibility (like before sunrise or after sunset):
        • a watertight flashlight or distress signals, and
        • navigation lights that meet the requirements of the Collision Regulations, and
      • a buoyant heaving line that is at least 15 meters long
    • Operators that wear a personal flotation device or lifejacket while operating the board don’t have to carry a buoyant heaving line on board
  3. General use
    • Introduce rules that may:
      • set a minimum age requirement for anyone operating a propeller-driven surfboard, similar to personal watercraft
      • require vessel operators who are below the minimum age to be supervised by someone who is above the minimum age requirement, and
      • require vessel operators be connected to the vessel’s propulsion cut-off switch (for example, via a lanyard or wireless connection)

We want to hear from you

  1. Choose “Register” at the top of the page, and join the discussion under the “Have Your Say” tab.
  2. You can also submit your comments in a Word or PDF document through the “Submissions” tab (one or more documents can be uploaded).

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