The body of a 34-year-old man was recovered by Whatcom County Search and Rescue divers from Mountain Lake in Moran State Park on Aug. 6.
The previous evening, at approximately 6:30 p.m., a call came into the San Juan County Sheriff’s Office about a man who fell off his stand-up paddleboard. He was last seen struggling 150 feet offshore for around 15 minutes before rescuers arrived on the scene. Friends of the victim attempted to locate him while crews were en route.
After an extensive interagency search, including Orcas Island Fire and Rescue, Moran State Park Rangers, the Sheriff’s Office, a U.S. Coast Guard helicopter and a diving team, the search was suspended on Aug. 5 when it became too dark to continue, and resumed in daylight until his body was discovered at 1:12 p.m.
The victim, who is not a resident of San Juan County, was not be wearing a life vest. At its deepest, Mountain Lake is 100 feet.
According to a July 28 story by the Seattle Times, there had been three drowning deaths in Washington state involving people who were not wearing a life jacket while paddleboarding, as a sport that has gained marked popularity within the past five years. In 2017, there were 11 total paddleboard fatalities in the entire country.
Paddleboarding can be first traced back to Polynesia in the late 1700s. Participants are propelled forward using a paddle while standing up on a board designed to glide through the water.
According to the Times, in 2008, the U.S. Coast Guard classified paddleboards as a vessel and issued regulations regarding life jacket requirements. According to the World Paddle Association, adult stand-up paddlers are required to have a USCG-approved life jacket (also known as Personal Floatation Device) for each person, a sound signaling device such as a whistle, a visual distress signal and flashlight. Wearing a PFD isn’t required unless the occupant is 12 years or younger.
For more information on the requirements, visit https://worldpaddleassociation.com/pfd-laws-sup-or-paddleboards-now-classified-as-vessels/