Author Topic: Personal Floatation Devices (Life Vests) Just one persons view.  (Read 42620 times)

Blane Chambers

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Personal Floatation Devices (Life Vests) Just one persons view.
« on: February 24, 2008, 12:46:24 PM »
A few years ago we started talking about wearing one in bigger surf while SUP surfing because the board tends to drag you farther under water than a normal board and when the bigger board hits you it usually will be an injury.       Since then I do wear one when I can remember to put it on...   Sometimes the waves are so good I'm out there and think about it later...    Sam Pae was the first guy I saw wearing one consistently.   First time I saw Sam wearing one was at a grinding left on the North Shore and he was riding a 12' board that would drag him far.     He enlightened me about his vest and eventually Kawika Foster got me to try one.      Both of these guys charge big waves so I figured, heck, no shame try it...   

This is just one persons opinion on these things...  There are mainly 2 types used by SUP surfers and tow in surfers.   Coast Guard approved ones and  "Impact" vests which are not CG approved but offer much more comfort but less floatation and protection.   I personally prefer the CG approved ones but also use an impact one also.

Safety Pros:     Well, its the absolute safest way to surf especially in heavy, deep water, powerful waves.   You get bonked on the head and pass out, at least you will eventually come up floating.    You get the board into the ribs, you have protection.    When surfing its rare just being held under is going to get you.   Its getting hit a certain way and you're now struggling to the surface injured that usually gets you.   

Safety Cons: You cannot dive very deep when needed but IMO you can dive more than deep enough.    It can be restrictive while surfing which may make you not perform at the highest levels to actually make a wave but I think this factor is very small and smaller with a impact vest.   If your leash gets hooked to the bottom it could be very hard with a vest to un-tangle yourself.     This could be very bad!    If you look hard enough, you could find many situations where the added buoyancy to your body could actually harm you.   Surface penetration is not one of the things to worry about because you do not penetrate without one if you're going fast anyway.    Overall, I think its very minimal that a vest would be less safe than no vest.

Comfort Pros:    The only real comfort I can see wearing any vest is in your mind.    As far as comfort goes there is nothing about it that is better than no vest at all unless you like the feeling like someone hugging you the whole time you're surfing.      Number one thing is wear one that fits right.   

Comfort Cons:   Everyone is different and little things like it digging into a certain part of your body will irritate each person differently.    For me, I don't like one that makes me feel like I can't breathe full deep breaths or is digging into my throat.      There can be plenty cons if you are wearing a vest that is not fit for you.   How would you know?   You have to try them on and better yet go surfing with them.    Unfortunately for me it took quite a few vests to find a couple I like.   

The puffy look of a PFD.    Honestly, to me it looks fat and dorky as heck but no ones opinion ever helps you when you're getting drilled under water.    This is the XCEL brand impact vest with a jersey over it.   


This is when a vest is most appealing.   When you get smashed.    Bad things happen quickly when there is a lot of water moving...   The moment of impact.


Real Life Situations:    First off, if you think wearing a vest in bigger waves will make you exempt from getting your ass kicked, you will be rudely educated.   Vest or no vest, the beatings are the same.    The drillings and hold downs are the same.   Sure, a vest can help you surface but only after the wave will let you just like it does without one.    Using a vest should be looked at as a tool to make what you already do, SAFER.     All the relaxation methods to survive still apply.   In other words, YOU CAN DROWN wearing a vest!   If you do not know how to handle bigger ocean conditions, the vest will not all of a sudden make you smarter.   Worse yet, it could put you into a bad situation because of a false sense of security.

Here's what stands out about a vest that I really like.     After a wipeout and you're hanging onto your paddle, trying to get your board etc, you are buoyant enough to gather your things a little easier.    Swimming with your paddle is hard enough but throw in the boiling cauldron of the previous waves and its all about just trying to keep your head up which burns time and energy.    You can get your stuff together and work on making your situation better, much quicker.     When down deep and you have to swim up, it does help make head way to the surface.    You won't come exploding out of the water but the buoyancy is definetly helpful.   Just don't expect to rocket to the surface.

So that's just one persons view on PFD's.   Will you look like a dork?   Yes.   Are you a Wuss for wearing one?   To most and especially if you're wearing one in smaller waves, Yes.   Is it going to stop you from wearing one?   That's up to you.    I don't wear one in smaller waves unless I'm testing it.   Anything solid and I'm really going to make the effort to remember to put one on especially if I'm heading out to a remote area with sizeable waves.     I hear of guys wearing them in Hawaiian size 3-5' waves and that gives me a chuckle but hey, whatever.   Safety is never a bad thing even if you look like a total dork right! ;D

Aloha,
Blane


www.paddlesurfhawaii.com
« Last Edit: February 24, 2008, 12:48:07 PM by Blane Chambers »

DavidJohn

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Re: Personal Floatation Devices (Life Vests) Just one persons view.
« Reply #1 on: February 24, 2008, 02:29:50 PM »
Thanks Blane..Great write up and advise...btw..that second pic is amazing.. :o

When Laird started using one (PFD's) they suddenly became cool.. ;D..and now with you wearing one they are even cooler.. :D

I thought you might get chafing around the under arm areas from paddling..Do you need to wear a rash top underneath?

DJ
« Last Edit: February 24, 2008, 02:35:19 PM by DavidJohn »

StandUpPaddleSurf.net

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Re: Personal Floatation Devices (Life Vests) Just one persons view.
« Reply #2 on: February 24, 2008, 02:40:27 PM »
I just started wearing an impact vest when I go into waves on the north shore.  http://www.standuppaddlesurf.net/2008/02/16/does-a-wake-vest-make-me-a-wus/#comment-7559  I know that 'big' is relative to the individual however 4 to 5 ft Hawaiian scale and up is big to me, especially on the north shore.  I can't imaging going on the waves like the Ku Ikaika ones. 

I used to wear a CG approved vest when I would kiteboard because if something goes wrong, the swim in to shore with your equipment can be really long and tiring.  I was also used to one because they are required on kayaks which I used to ride. 

I use a competition wake vest now because it provides some float but doesn't get in the way as much as my CG approved vest.  This is really noticeable in the armpit area where the CG vest seems to scrape my underarm a lot and the impact one doesn't.  I also wear a rash guard under it to avoid scraping.  That's just a comfort issue although to me I don't notice the vest after a few minutes because it's not that thick.  I think if the size of the waves required me to use the CG approved vest then I'm not going.

It makes me look bigger but I'm much more interested in being safe than looking cool.

PonoBill

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Re: Personal Floatation Devices (Life Vests) Just one persons view.
« Reply #3 on: February 24, 2008, 02:58:48 PM »
Way rather be live, dorky, and having fun than be dead, cool and not. Don't have one yet (I have a big impact vest for Windsurfing, but I wouldn't wear that surfing) but I'm gonna get one. It seems the only sports I like are the ones that require safety gear.
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Dwight (DW)

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Re: Personal Floatation Devices (Life Vests) Just one persons view.
« Reply #4 on: February 24, 2008, 03:01:03 PM »
Thanks for making it cool Blane.

I've been using one on big days kitesurfing for the last few years. Wore it a few times SUPing last Fall.

I've gone so far as to modify mine for ultimate function and comfort kitesurfing.

I sent the design to the brand I ride for, but they were not wise enough to appreciate it.

The hanging loop pulls up and over the hook, pulling the jacket down in the front. In the back the jacket is cut away so as not to bunch up under the harness.

One final point, I don't like thick bulky jackets because the impact with the water becomes hard like concrete. Back when kitesurfing had just been invented and we used foils that sank, a life jacket with full floatation sounded like a good idea. That was until I received a head concussion and sprained neck from the whiplash of hitting the water with a thick jacket on.




« Last Edit: February 24, 2008, 03:07:41 PM by DW »

StandUpPaddleSurf.net

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Re: Personal Floatation Devices (Life Vests) Just one persons view.
« Reply #5 on: February 24, 2008, 03:08:58 PM »
DW - That looks pretty thin.  Does it float you at all or just for impact protection?

Dwight (DW)

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Re: Personal Floatation Devices (Life Vests) Just one persons view.
« Reply #6 on: February 24, 2008, 03:18:26 PM »
DW - That looks pretty thin.  Does it float you at all or just for impact protection?

It makes me neutral buoyant. This allows me to relax and save my strength for survival. As you know, the key is to stay calm, relaxed, and maintain reserve strength.

I hope it floats me enough to allow someone to see my body and have some chance of resuscitation.

surfpainter

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Re: Personal Floatation Devices (Life Vests) Just one persons view.
« Reply #7 on: February 24, 2008, 04:14:00 PM »
Do suspenders come with that PFD?

tautologies

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Re: Personal Floatation Devices (Life Vests) Just one persons view.
« Reply #8 on: February 24, 2008, 05:25:34 PM »


I DON'T EVEN UNDERSTAND WHY THIS IS A DISCUSSION. (oops caps lock)  :-)

Reallt, safety above all. THis is the same discussion in kiteboarding. Some guys are afraid of looking dorky. WHo care what you look like as long as you have fun, in a reasonable safe manner. I am surprised at how many who goes miles off shore in kiteboarding, not being in shape to swim in...without any flotation devide (except the kite), which is easy to loose if you are in waves.

I think SUP suffers a little from the same issues as kiteboarding. It is easy to get out fast and way off shore...but really what happens WHEN (not if) your leash snaps a mile from shore? It doesn't even have to be a mile...in waves it is suddenly way way harder to get back to shore.

In kiteboarding there are a lot of guys that never surfs a regular boards, they don't know how hard it can be to get through and back in if anything happens. I think SUP as sport suffers a little form the same issues. People who actually don't know too much about surfing might paddle out in seemingly harmless conditions, and suddenly a mix of off shore winds and rising surf catches them by surprise. Once you are in trouble, situations magnify and becomes critical very fast. (this is why I always recommend people to get comfortable with regular surfing longboardeing before trying SUP).

Anyhoo, yes I would not hesitate using on of my impact vests (Naish, O'Neil or Dakine) in waves. Of these three, I think the Naish one is the one that provides the most flexibility / movability and floatation at the same time...the dakine one is more floatation, but also more restricting..it is a tow in vest (no I don't tow in), the O'neill is more of a rib protector, but doesn't have as much floatation.

Anyhoo...
 A.




Dwight (DW)

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Re: Personal Floatation Devices (Life Vests) Just one persons view.
« Reply #9 on: February 24, 2008, 05:55:00 PM »


I DON'T EVEN UNDERSTAND WHY THIS IS A DISCUSSION. (oops caps lock)  :-)



We've got all types out there. I've been a pioneer in extreme sports my whole life. Going back to when hang gliding was invented. I've seen people paralyzed, had friends die. I didn't get to be an old guy without understanding the risks and being smart about it. Trust your instincts.
« Last Edit: February 24, 2008, 05:57:28 PM by DW »

Tony DaKine

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Re: Personal Floatation Devices (Life Vests) Just one persons view.
« Reply #10 on: February 24, 2008, 07:41:19 PM »
DW - I was checking that exact impact vest online a few days ago. It looks pretty comfortable. I'm not sure I understand  your describe the flotation. If you didn't kick and held your hands above your head in the water, would you float or sink?

I don't charge super big waves but I've taken a board to the ribs a couple times and would wear a vest on bigger days. I'm looking for a little flotation, not necessarily USCG standards though.

steamroller

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Re: Personal Floatation Devices (Life Vests) Just one persons view.
« Reply #11 on: February 24, 2008, 08:23:16 PM »
HEY you been holding out on us pictures wise?!?!?!!....i KNOW you get MORE pics of that makaha day....no hide ....share um...we like see...

in fact i think you should start a "PSH pic thread"  ;D

Blane Chambers

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Re: Personal Floatation Devices (Life Vests) Just one persons view.
« Reply #12 on: February 24, 2008, 09:57:28 PM »
HEY you been holding out on us pictures wise?!?!?!!....i KNOW you get MORE pics of that makaha day....no hide ....share um...we like see...

in fact i think you should start a "PSH pic thread"  ;D


Ha ha!   I have HUNDREDS OF KILLER PICS!!!!!!    Pipeline, Makaha, Sunset, Secret Spots etc, etc...    Just sick stuff of plenty good surfers ripping.    Takes time to upload though...   When I have time...   Here's a few teasers for you...

Tony DaKine lays it over at a secret spot...


TD getting ready for another fun one...


Mel Puu blasting...




Pipe look back...


Kekoa Uemura stroking in...


Tony DaKine ends a killer session...


OK, that's enough...   Stick to the subject at hand...   PFD's! ;D

Aloha,
Blane



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Honolii

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Re: Personal Floatation Devices (Life Vests) Just one persons view.
« Reply #13 on: February 25, 2008, 12:29:33 AM »
I know I'm getting off the subject but I had to comment on that picture of Blane on the Makaha Bowl. I can't stop looking at it only because I cannot even fathom that wave! Unreal. Lots of power and looks like a galcier coming down on you. Props to you brah!

shapeshifter

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Re: Personal Floatation Devices (Life Vests) Just one persons view.
« Reply #14 on: February 25, 2008, 03:00:10 AM »
i've gotten into the habit of wearing a manually inflatable pfd by mustang survival it is pretty compact until deployed and comfortable. they also have hydrostatic versions that automatically deploy when submerged but for obvious reasons this wouldn't be the preferred choice for surfing.

it's good to see others with the same ideas.

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