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Don’t Be ‘That Guy’ This Summer

Life Jackets only work when you’re wearing them. This might sound like the most obvious statement you’ve ever heard - and it is. But if you paddle around this summer you will almost always find “that guy” paddling with a life jacket strapped to the front of his SUP board, or someone sitting on a life jacket for extra cushion on a rental kayak instead of wearing it. Or a toddler wearing a life vest that is 10 sizes too big.

Don’t be that person.

It’s not only important to pack a PFD on any paddle, but it needs to be the right PFD, and you need to wear the darn thing properly. A leisurely paddle can quickly turn into a dangerous situation. Weather, hidden hazards, and sudden accidents happen randomly and rapidly. This makes having a reliable PFD that fits essential.

If your PFD isn’t comfortable, or if you’ve slowly outgrown it, it’s time to get a new one this summer. Sure, buying new bathing suits and GoPro accessories is more exciting, but there is nothing more important to own as a paddler than a quality PFD.

Four Signs Your Life Jacket Isn’t Keeping You Safe

1. You Aren’t Wearing It

Life jackets aren’t called life pillows for a reason. They aren’t for storing or for sitting on - they must be worn. If your PFD isn’t zipped and secured on your body, then it isn’t working. Life and death scenarios aren’t planned, nor are moments when you capsize and flood your vessel. This is why your PFD needs to be properly worn at all times.

2. It’s Too Tight To Buckle

People grow, and waistlines ebb and flow. Therefore a life jacket you bought 10 years ago might not fit as perfectly as it did the day you bought it. If you find your life jacket no longer zips or buckles, don’t force it. This can cause you discomfort, especially on a longer paddle. Instead of squeezing into a tight PFD repeatedly, simply invest in a new one.

3. It’s Too Big To Safely Secure It

If you are a parent, you probably like to buy clothes a few sizes too large for your kid, especially for expensive items like boots and winter jackets. You might think the same “buy it big” philosophy can save you a few pennies when it comes to child life vests, but this is a dangerous gamble.

You can buy a PFD that is a bit big, but it must be secured tightly to the body. If a PFD is too loose, then it can slip off, or even act as a potential choking hazard. Never try and strap an adult PFD to a child. That could potentially do more harm than good.

4. The Zippers Or Buckles Are Broken

Zippers and buckles on PFDs are often the first places you notice wear and tear. If a zipper is corroded, or stuck, and prevents you from securing a PFD properly, then your life jacket is compromised.
The same is true if you have buckles that are busted. Wearing a life vest without securing it is like wearing a winter jacket in the Arctic without zipping it. It might feel like it’s helping, but it won’t save your life the way a zipped-up jacket or PFD will.

Tips To Buying The Right PFD For You

  • Make Sure You Buy The Righ Size: Take the time to measure your body, or try on life jackets in person. Don’t just guess or buy a life jacket based on the size of the T-shirts you buy. Put time and effort into how you buy a PFD.

  • Try Before You Buy: Testing out a PFD is very helpful. Even if you can’t test it in real-life paddling scenarios, you should quickly be able to tell how well you can move in a PFD. you want one that is seamless to wear, so you are never apprehensive about putting it on.

  • Get The Right PFD For The Paddling You Are Doing: Not every PFD is built for the same watersport. If you like to fish from your kayak, but race on your SUP board, then you will likely need multiple PFDs. Buy the best-designed PFD for your watersport, and it will help, rather than hinder, your performance.

  • Comfort Is Worth The Extra Money: Quality often comes at a price. This can be the case with a PFD. Still, remember that life vests aren’t something you want to be super cheap with. A comfortable PFD with quality materials will feel good on your body (and bare skin). This will lead to a more enjoyable experience every time you paddle, for years.

Don’t Be Lazy When It Comes To Your PFD This Summer

Maybe you keep putting off getting a PFD that fits you right, or maybe you are trying to get a little more use out of your broken life vest. Or perhaps you are just sick of wearing a life jacket, and it’s more comfortable to just sit on it.

Whatever excuse you might have, there is never going to be a good reason to paddle on the water without a reliable PFD. Don’t be “that guy” with a PFD resting somewhere other than securely around your body.

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