SUP PFD: How to Choose the Best

1. Importance of PFD

2. PFD Types

3. Size and Fit

If you’re new to paddling, one of the first pieces of personal equipment you’ll want to purchase is a quality personal floatation device (PFD). Do you know why many paddlers wear life jackets? Are you struggling to pick the right life jacket? The author will answer these two questions for you one by one.

1. Importance of PFD

No matter what activity you play, safety is the key. Therefore, it is very necessary to choose a life jacket.

On the one hand, for newbies who are not quite good swimmers yet, life jackets can ensure that you can still float if you fall into the water, and can even save your life. And it can give you a degree of peace of mind without worrying about falling into the water while trying to move.

On the other hand, even though you are a very experienced swimmer, you can't perform your swimming skills in the face of certain complex waters. For example, some sea waves are very big and will push you away very vigorously, when your strength simply can not resist these waves, it is easy to put yourself in danger. Moreover, it is also possible to encounter foot cramps.

Therefore, life jackets have an extremely big importance.


2. PFD Types

When starting to pick a life jacket, the first thing we need to know is what types of life jackets are available. Generally speaking, there are two main types of personal flotation devices, which are standard and inflatable.

Let's compare the difference between the two together.

· Standard PFDs

The standard PFD is versatile and suitable for most water sports, including boating and kayaking. It has been around for a long time and is a non-inflatable PFD. many people choose to wear these life jackets because they are inherently buoyant. When you fall into the water, no warm-up time is needed and the PFD is ready to go. You can think of it as your bulky undershirt, filled with foam that creates buoyancy. And, you don't need to specifically maintain it. Just keep it out of the sun to keep it clean.

standard PFD

CONS: It's bulkier and may restrict your movement while paddling. Also, the foam doesn't breathe well and can get very hot in the summer.

· Inflatable PFDs

The inflatable life jacket is a fairly new product on the swimming market. It is not the type that you have to inflate by blowing air into a tube. Instead, they are either automatic and inflate when you hit the water, or they have a CO2 gas cartridge that you activate manually. These measures ensure that you can inflate quickly when you need to. The benefits of this type of PFD are two main things. One is that when uninflated, PFDs are thin, comfortable to wear, and don't get in the way of your stroke while paddling. Two, because they are thin, they cover less of your body when uninflated and you hardly notice you are wearing them. So on hot days they will keep your body cool.

inflatable PFD

CONS: Inflatable PFDs are not instantly buoyant. The PFD inflates quickly when needed, but only automatically when it hits the water. If you are injured, you cannot manually activate the inflation mechanism and it will not inflate. In addition, you also need to spend extra time to maintain it. That means replacing the CO2 tank after each use, otherwise the life jacket will not be inflated the next time you need it.


3. Size and Fit

Now that you have a general, understanding of the types of life jackets available, it's time to think about what works for you. PFDs come in different shapes and sizes, just like your usual clothing. It is important to find a good PFD that fits your body, as too much in either direction can lead to discomfort and limited movement.

· Get the right size

For adults, there is a mistake many people make when it comes to picking the right PFD size. It is the mistake of using weight as a measure of PFD size. (For children, their weight will determine the size.) In fact, your bust size determines how big of a PFD you need. if you don't know your bust size, you can use a measuring tape to measure the circumference of your chest at the widest point and you've got your bust size. Note that sizes will vary from brand to brand and from style to style, so the best thing to do is to try on a few different sizes yourself.

· How to fit your PFD

A properly sized PFD should fit like a glove, yet allow you to move freely without chafing while paddling and playing.

First, if it's a standard PFD, loosen all the straps, then put it on and zipper it up. If it's an inflatable, put it on over your head or clip it around your waist.

Second, put it on and then tighten all the straps starting at the waist. If it has shoulder straps, tighten them at the end. It should feel tight, but not uncomfortable.


Further Tips

  1. The more straps a PFD has, the more ways it can be adjusted for comfort.
  2. Check your movement to make sure it is comfortable and does not chafe while paddling. If you are a stand-up paddleboarder, pick up a paddle and mimic the paddling motion.
  1. If possible, test your PFD in the pool or shallow water to see how it works. It should not hitch up or slide down your chin while floating.


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