USCG 2019 Recreational Boating Statistics and Paddling

The U.S. Coast Guard has released its accident, injury and death statistics for 2019 and as always the results are interesting.

Here are the top takeaways overall:

  • Number of Accidents: 4,168
  • Number of Deaths: 613
  • Number of Injuries: 2,559

Now keep in mind this involves all of recreational boating, which includes SUP, kayaks, as well as sailboats, motorboats and personal watercraft ie jetskis as well as other types of recreational water craft.


  • Compared to 2018, the overall number of accidents increased 0.6%, the number of deaths decreased 3.2%, and the number of injuries increased 1.9%.
  • Where cause of death was known, 79% of fatal boating accident victims drowned. Of those drowning victims with reported life jacket usage, 86% were not wearing a life jacket.
  • Alcohol use is the leading known contributing factor in fatal boating accidents; where the primary cause was known, it was listed as the leading factor in 23% of deaths.
  • Top Causes of accidents in addition to alcohol include inattention and lack of navigational skills.
  • Not surprisingly, where data was known, the most common vessel types involved in reported accidents were open motorboats (45%), personal watercraft (19%), and cabin motorboats (16%).
  • However, where data was known, the vessel types with the highest percentage of deaths were open motorboats (48%), kayaks (14%), and personal watercraft (8%).
  • Lakes, ponds and reservoirs are where most of the accidents happened, in calm waters with warm temperatures.

Looking just at standup paddleboards, the Coast Guard logged a total of 15 accidents last year – 12 deaths and three reported injuries.  It would not be surprising to find more than just three injuries from sup paddling – they just weren’t reported to the Coast Guard. Of those 15 SUP accidents:

  • 83 percent were drownings – of paddlers between the ages of 30 and 59.
  • 75 percent of sup paddlers who died in 2019 were not wearing life jackets.
  • Sup paddling deaths as a percentage of all recreational boating deaths increased from 1 percent in 2018 to 2 percent in 2019.
  • Hazardous waters, inexperience and lack of navigation aids were the main caused of all sup accidents in 2019.
  • Reported sup injuries were lacerations and sprains/strains.
  • Most sup accidents involved boards that were  NOT rented.

There is no data in the report on leash usage, as it is still not a Coast Guard requirement to use one.

As for the 25 percent of sup deaths where the paddler was wearing a life jacket, it would be interesting to know if the jacket was properly fitted and worn, if it was inherently buoyant or if it was an inflatable that was in proper working order or not or was deployed properly.  But the bottom line is that in MOST deaths, the paddler was not wearing a life jacket.

Here are a few more charts that might be interesting to take a peak at, and you can read the full report here.




Lisa is managing editor of and is an avid paddler of all the things - including sup, SurfSki, outrigger canoe and prone, though she especially enjoys paddle surfing and downwinding. She is a former journalist with more than 30 years experience in print and broadcast journalism and in government communications. She is a six-time Chattajack finisher, racing both sup and OC2. When not paddling, she is an outdoor instructor.



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