Aquatics Program

2014 National Aquatics Workshop

BSA Stand Up Paddleboarding Award

The BSA Stand Up Paddleboarding award introduces Scouts to the basics of stand up paddleboarding (SUP) on calm water, including skills, equipment, self rescue, and safety precautions. This award also encourages Scouts to develop paddling skills that promote fitness and safe aquatics recreation. Click here for an informative PDF, an application, and information for counselors.

Stand Up Paddleboarding flier

National Aquatics Task Force Memo (November 2013)

National Aquatics Task Force Memo (April 2013)


Before a BSA group may engage in swimming activities of any kind, a minimum of one adult leader must complete Safe Swim Defense training, have a commitment card, No. 34243, with them, and agree to use the eight defenses in this plan. The Safe Swim Defense plan applies to swimming at a beach, private or public pool, wilderness pond, stream, lake, or anywhere Scouts swim.

The following information is specific to Cub Scout swimming activities:

  • If the swimming activity is in a public facility where others are using the pool at the same time, and the pool operator provides guard personnel, there may be no need for additional designation of Scout lifeguards and lookout.
  • The buddy system is critically important, however, even in a public pool. Remember, even in a crowd, you are alone without protection if no one is attentive to your circumstances.
  • The rule that people swim only in water suited to their ability and with others of similar ability applies in a pool environment. Most public pools divide shallow and deep water, and this may be sufficient for defining appropriate swimming areas.
  • Aquatics activities for dens often are held in backyards with swimming pools. Safe Swim Defense guidelines must apply. A certified lifeguard, though highly recommended, is not required. A qualified supervisor must be present. It is critical that the swimming activity be supervised by a conscientious adult who knowingly accepts the responsibility for the youth members involved in the activity.


  • Safe Swim Defense, No. 34370
  • Safe Swim Defense Commitment Card, No. 34243

BSA Aquatics Play Structure Policy

The BSA’s Aquatics Play Structure Policy applies to all play structures operated in Scouting whether inflatable, floatable, or fixed structures. It includes, but is not limited to, slides, swings, mats, logs, rockers, and climbing or bouncing devices. 

Program Hazard Analysis: A program hazard analysis must be completed at least annually for each aquatics play structure device in use. The unique risks associated with the device and the operational procedures and practices to mitigate the risks must be documented. The participant’s age and swimming ability, which are appropriate for use of the device, must also be documented. The program hazard analysis must be approved by the council (Aquatics Committee and Enterprise Risk Management Committee).

Location: Aquatics play structures, used individually or in a group, must be isolated from other water activities to safely manage risks. A dedicated catch pool or roped-off area of water is required for each activity. A separate check-in and a single route to the start of the activity are often needed.

Operating Procedures: The activity must be conducted in accordance with Safe Swim Defense principles, and swimming ability must be appropriate for the activity.

Lifeguards must be specific to the activity and not be shared with other water activities. Appropriate guard ratios must be maintained, which includes a sufficient number of guards to scan the entire activity area with lines of sight not blocked by structures. Supervision of participants entering and leaving the activity must occur. Lifeguards must be positioned to maintain proper lines of sight for the risks associated with each type of device. Lifeguards must be provided with appropriate personal safety and rescue equipment.

Installation/Construction: Installation, including any anchoring systems, must be in accordance with manufacturing specifications. Construction of any fixed structures, towers, and ramps must be professionally designed, approved, and inspected by engineers/architects. All installations and construction must meet any state regulations on aquatics play structures.

Participant Safety Equipment: Safety equipment (such as properly fitted life jackets and helmets) must be provided to participants as appropriate for the activity.

Safety Checks: A safety check of the structure/device must occur in accordance with manufacturer specifications or at least daily. A safety check of the participant safety and lifeguard safety and rescue equipment must occur daily.

Emergency Action Plans: As part of the program hazard analysis, emergency action plans specific to the activity must be developed and approved. Emergency action plans must be practiced on a regular basis.

Aquatics Play Structure Policy PDF
Operational Practices and Procedures Guidance—Rockers
Operational Practices and Procedures Guidance—Climbing Devices
Operational Practices and Procedures Guidance—The Blob and Other Inflated Catapult Devices


Before a BSA group may engage in any watercraft activity, adult leaders for such activity must complete Safety Afloat training, have a commitment card, and be dedicated to full compliance with all nine points of Safety Afloat. (Through enforcement of these nine measures, most watercraft accidents can be prevented.) At least one of the adult leaders must be trained in CPR.

The following information is specific to Cub Scout boating activities:

  • Supervision—the ratio of adult supervisors to participants is one to five.
  • Skill Proficiency—Canoeing, rowboating, and rafting for Cub Scouts (including Webelos Scouts) is limited to council/district events on flat-water ponds or controlled lake areas free of powerboats and sailboats. Prior to recreational canoeing, Cub Scouts are to be instructed in basic handling skills and practices.
  • Planning—Canoeing, rowboating, and rafting do not include "trips" or "expeditions" and are not to be conducted on running water (i.e., rivers or streams); therefore, some procedures are inapplicable. Suitable weather requires clear skies, no appreciable wind, and warm air and water.
  • Life jackets—All persons engaged in activity on the open water must wear properly fitted U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jackets.
  • Scuba—Youth members in Cub Scouting are not authorized to use scuba in any activity.


  • Safety Afloat Training, No. 34159
  • Safety Afloat Commitment Card, No. 34242

Boardsailing BSA
Kayaking BSA
BSA Lifeguard
Mile Swim BSA

Scuba BSA
Snorkeling BSA
BSA Stand Up