In most places in the world paddleboards, and all other non-motorized watercraft, do not need registration. However, some US states do require registration of longer paddleboards. Additional US states also require the purchase of tags for paddleboards.

Most paddleboarders think of their board as a pass time and might not consider that laws governing boats might apply to boards. Laws, no matter how infuriating at times, are there for a reason. The paddleboard is no exception and registration is sometimes needed.

Registration of Paddleboard

In most places in the world boats and watercraft that have neither sail nor engine do not have to be registered. That being said if you rig a sail on your paddleboard, other than yourself and your paddle that is, you need to register it. The same goes f you somehow succeed in attaching an outboard motor!

For your unmodified paddleboard, being propelled only by yourself or currents, only 3 US States require registration. Even these three states do not require registration of shorter boards. How short depends on the state. But there are other laws we list in this article that you need to be aware of.

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These states require registration

  • Iowa, for boards longer than 13 feet
  • Minnesota, for boards longer than 10 feet
  • South Dakota, for boards longer than 12 feet

Exceptions are given in Iowa for inflatable crafts. That means inflatable soft-top stand-up paddleboards are not required to register. If you are unsure if your board is inflatable enough for this exception, you can contact the Iowa county treasurers here.

In Iowa and Minnesota, you can be required to license your craft even if you do not live there. In Iowa, you are free to use or store your board for less than 60 days. For more than 60 days you will need to register with the state. In Minnesota, this grace period is 90 days. See below for more information on registration in these states.

Apart from the 3 states that require registration, some states require certain “stickers”. Technically this is not registration but it is still mandatory. Two states require what is known as an invasive species tag. This tag funds the states’ programs to combat invasive species in their waterways.

States with invasive species tags

  • Oregon, for boards longer than 10 feet
  • Idaho

For both states, you have to stop for inspection of your board if you pass an open inspection station. This applies to all paddleboards, regardless of length. Read more about this below.

While paddleboarding in Oregon or Idaho you are required to have this tag on your board. Regardless if you live in said states or not. The invasive species program is specifically aimed at watercraft, like paddleboards, that are brought from outside of these states. Each time this is done the board or boat risk bringing in invasive species with them. All water or mud or similar on or in a paddleboard can carry these invasive species.

The state of Illinois had until recently a Water Usage Tag, more or less the same as registration. As of 2018, however, this is no longer required for paddleboards nor any other manually powered watercraft.

Below we provide a detailed list of how to acquire licenses, registrations, and tags in these states.

How to register your paddleboard in Iowa

If you live in Iowa or use or store you paddleboard in Iowa for more than 60 days, you will need to register it. paddleboards shorter than 13 feet are exempt.

To register you compile a set of documents and fill out an application form.

The required documents are

  • Bill of Sale or other document proving ownership
  • Previous registration (if you have one)

After you have all your papers you send them via mail to the nearest Iowa County Recorder.

In Iowa, you must also remember to renew your registration before the 30th of April each year or face a penalty.

Iowa provides a detailed guide for the registration of your paddleboard. You can find it here. For more information and contact information they also provide an overview of the registration process.

When you have your registration these are some of the things you can do with you board in Iowa. You can traverse the mighty Mississippi River or paddle any of the many waterways in the state.

How to register your paddleboard in Minnesota

Minnesota has one of the more involved processes for registration. If you happen to get a board longer than 16 feet, however, the person or store selling it to you have to do the registration themselves. A glimmer of hope for the really tall people! If you have a more normal-sized board between 10 and 16 feet, you have to do it yourself.

This is a list of the information you have to compile

  • Length from bow to stern
  • Who manufactured the board
  • What material is the hull made from
  • How is it propelled (that is human-powered)
  • Name or number of the board model
  • Year of manufacture
  • Hull identification number (sometimes a hull serial number)

Like in other states you also have to have a bill of sale or some other document proving ownership. What makes Minnesota special is that this document also has to prove that you, or the previous owner, paid sales tax on the paddleboard to be registered. For new boards, a receipt or bill of sale works fine. If you buy a used board make sure you get the correct documents from the previous owner.

If this all seems daunting you can find this information for your board either at a vendor or by googling your board. All the questions about materials and such can easily be found online.

Armed with the necessary information on your board, you can visit any deputy registrar of motor vehicles or the DNR License Bureau in St. Paul (500 Lafayette Road, St. Paul, MN). It is also possible to register online. A combination of fees covering different aspects of water activities apply.

With your registration, you will receive a tag. This tag is normally placed on the front of boats to be as visible as possible. As this is not possible on your paddleboard, the tag is placed in the center of the stern (back) of your board.

A registration in Minnesota is valid for three calendar years so the process does not have to be repeated too often.

Minnesota offers a wide range of activities for a properly registered paddleboard. You can take a tour of the twin-cities or experience the Mississippi river where it is still a small(-ish) waterway.

How to register your paddleboard in South Dakota

If you live in South-Dakota you need to register your paddleboard if 12 feet or longer. You also need to perform this registration within 45 days of purchase. Failure to do this will lead to extra fees and sometimes even fines.

Registration is done at your local county treasurers office. You will need to present paperwork proving the ownership of your paddleboard. This can be a bill of sale or a purchase agreement or any other document proving that it is indeed your board. When applying there are fees dues, you can find which fees apply to you in this list.

You can read more and find the appropriate papers to fill out here.

How to purchase and attach invasive species tags

In both Oregon and Idaho, the invasive species tags are purchased at inspection stations. These stations can be found here, for Oregon, and here, for Idaho. What is not commonly known is that all watercraft have to stop for inspection at these stations. So even if your paddleboard is smaller than 10 feet, inspection is mandatory. You do, however, only have to buy a tag if your board is 10 feet and up.

The invasive species programs are designed to save the local waterways. As the inspections themselves are free, you can stop and learn how you can help safeguard the waters you enjoy with your board.

Now that that is all out of the way

Regardless if you need to register or not and no matter where you go: stay safe and enjoy the bounties of nature on your paddleboard.

Happy paddling.