(KTXL) — As people look for ways to cool down this summer, Californians can look forward to spending time at a beach or lake, but they may not be aware of laws that sometimes require the wearing of a life jacket on a boat, canoe, kayak or jet ski. 

Life jacket requirements when boarding a boat

Under California law, every child under 13 years old is required to wear a life jacket at all times whenever on a moving vessel, which is considered a boat or any type of watercraft.

Life jackets are also required for adults when boarding a boat, personal watercraft (also known as jet skis), canoe or a kayak, but in some instances, they do not need to be worn the entire time, but instead just be within reach.

However, there are three exceptions for children, as they’re not required to wear a life jacket when they are wearing a harness on a sailboat, when they are in an enclosed cabin, and when they are on a vessel during an emergency rescue. 

According to the California Department of Parks and Recreation, for boats less than 16 feet long, a canoe, or a kayak of any length, you are required to : 

  • Wear a Coast Guard-approved life jacket when boarding a personal watercraft (also known as jet skis) and being towed behind a vessel
  • Each person on board must carry a Coast Guard-approved life jacket. If stored, life jackets must be readily available and easy to access, and you must show passengers the locations of life jackets and other safety equipment
  • Anyone using an underwater maneuvering device is exempt from wearing a life jacket. An underwater maneuvering device is any towed or self-powered device designed for underwater use that a person can pilot through diving, turning and surfacing moves

For anyone on a boat 16 feet or longer, you must carry for each passenger:

  • The same requirements as above
  • One easy-to-reach Type IV device designed for throwing, such as a ring, cushion, or horseshoe buoy for each boat

Other requirements for powered and other vessels

All motorized vessels are required to have a whistle or sound-producing device, an adequate muffler to meet state noise level requirements, a Coast Guard-approved fire extinguisher and your registration must be current.

A paddle, 20-foot tow line and an anchor are suggested to have whenever boarding a vessel. Navigational lights are required from sunset to sunrise or whenever you have limited visibility. 

For non-powered vessels such as a canoe, kayaks, or standup paddle boards (SUPs), here are the recommendations and requirements:

  • A whistle or sound-producing device is recommended
  • SUPs have must a flotation device
  • Leashes are recommended and your best connection to flotation
  • SUPs are not recommended in high-speed or open water during high vessel traffic

How do you know when a life jacket fits properly? 

There are different types of life jackets for children, general boating, paddling, fishing or hunting and for pets. 

According to the Division of Boating and Waterways, here are some tips to know when selecting a life jacket: 

  • It will help keep your head above the water
  • If it’s too big, the life jacket will ride up around your face
  • If it’s too small, it will not be able to keep your body afloat
  • Life jackets designed for adults will not work for children 

When looking for your size, the Division of Boating and Waterways recommends the following tips: 

  • Check the manufacturer’s label to ensure that the life jacket is a proper fit for your size and weight
  • Make sure the jacket is properly fastened
  • Hold your arms straight up over your head
  • Ask a friend to grasp the tops of the arm openings and gently pull up
  • Make sure there is no excess above the openings and that the jacket does not ride up over your chin or face
  • For the best fit, try the life jacket in shallow water under safe and supervised conditions