What we heard: Propeller-driven surfboard-type vessels

On March 14, 2022, Transport Canada launched an online consultation on propeller-driven surfboard-type vessels. This consultation gave the public the opportunity to offer feedback on proposed safety requirements for propeller-driven surfboard-type vessels. These vessels are currently prohibited in Canada, so the safety requirements would only be put in place if the prohibition is removed.

We asked for feedback on the requirements listed below.

Table 1: Proposed requirements

Type of requirement


Safety mechanisms

  • Require engine cut-off switches
  • Require propellers to be protected

Safety gear

  • Require users to carry the following safety equipment onboard:
    • an inherently buoyant personal flotation device or a lifejacket
    • 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,Footnote * and
      • navigation lights that meet the requirements of the Collision Regulations, and
    • a buoyant heaving line that is at least 15 metres 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


  • 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)

The consultation ended on May 13, 2022, after receiving over 150 comments. Below is a summary of what we heard from the public. Feedback is grouped by theme.

What we heard

Respondents generally supported the proposed safety requirements for propeller-driven surfboard-type vessels. Some respondents highlighted that these vessels use net-zero emissions technology and are environmentally friendly.

While the consultation was focused on receiving feedback regarding the proposed safety requirements for propeller-driven surfboard-type vessels, some respondents opposed the proposal to repeal the prohibition on them, expressing the opinion that:

  • there are safer alternatives to propeller-driven surfboard-type vessels
  • operation of propeller-driven surfboard-type vessels should be left to professionals
  • there are risks if operators remove or modify their vessel’s propeller protection

Safety mechanisms

Of the respondents who commented on the proposed requirement to equip propeller-driven surfboard-type vessels with an engine cut-off switch:

  • most respondents agreed with the proposed requirement;
  • some respondents felt that engine cut-off switches should be physically connected to the operator; and
  • a minority of respondents disagreed with the proposal, expressing the opinion that the vessel’s throttle (a device used to control vessel speed) is a sufficient safety measure

Of the respondents who commented on the proposed requirement to have a propeller-protector on propeller-driven surfboard-type vessels:

  • almost half agreed with the proposal, expressing the opinion that open propellers are dangerous and that operators should not be able to remove propeller protectors;
  • some respondents expressed that propeller-driven surfboard-type vessels should come installed with a propeller protector, but their use should be at the discretion of the operator;
  • some respondents expressed the view that the use of propeller-protectors should be dependent on the age or experience of the operator; and
  • some respondents opposed the proposal, expressing the opinion that propeller protectors are not as effective as people think and that they could create a false sense of security

Safety gear

Respondents mostly supported the proposal to introduce requirements related to safety gear, with only one respondent opposing the proposed requirements in their entirety.

Of the respondents who commented on the proposed requirements for personal flotation devices or lifejackets:

  • nearly all agreed that lifejackets are a necessity, with some noting that a whistle should also be required; and
  • one respondent expressed that an impact vest (padded vest designed to provide protection to the upper body from hard impacts with water) would be sufficient instead of a lifejacket.

Regarding other proposed safety gear requirements:

  • many respondents strongly opposed the proposal for operators to carry a buoyant heaving line, expressing the opinion that doing so would be unreasonable and could be a safety hazard;
  • some respondents expressed the opinion that the requirement for a compass is not necessary;
  • some respondents felt that vessel operators should be required to wear a helmet; and
  • some respondents expressed the opinion that navigation lights should not be required because propeller-driven surfboards should not be operated at night.

General use

Respondents generally supported the proposed requirements for operating propeller-driven surfboards, noting that they weren’t overly burdensome.

Regarding the proposal to introduce age requirements for propeller-driven surfboards:

  • most respondents supported introducing age requirements, but varied with respect to what the age requirement should be (12 years of age or 16 years of age);
  • one respondent agreed that operators under a certain age should be supervised while operating;
  • one respondent noted that age requirements should be accompanied by mandatory training; and
  • one respondent opposed the proposal to introduce age requirements, expressing the opinion that younger operators would be more open to learning about operating a vessel safely.

Regarding other proposed requirements related to operating propeller-driven surfboard-type vessels:

  • some respondents felt that there should be requirements for operators related to licensing and training;
  • some respondents felt that propeller-driven surfboards should be restricted in certain areas or within a certain distance from swimmers;
  • one respondent thought that nighttime navigation would be hazardous and that propeller-driven surfboards should have some reflective visibility; and
  • one respondent felt there should be restrictions on what times the propeller-driven surfboards can be used.

One respondent also felt that Transport Canada should consider expanding enforcement authorities to other Transport Canada enforcement officers and inspectors to ensure new requirements are enforced.