Strapping or in some cases duct taping a PFD to a paddle board never really seemed like a good idea. But rental shops around the nation and individual paddlers do it regularly. Since PFDs are required by the US Coast Guard to have on you in non surf zone waters, folks buy the cheapest PFDs possible and strap or tape them on to be legal.  Downside is that if you really need the PFD, good-luck getting it off in time. Many don’t use a leash as well, so if you fall off, your board floats away (wind) with your PFD on it – how far can you swim?  Or given very cold water, how long?

Another common scenario is when rental shops give renters the orange clunky lifejackets most commonly seen on ferries.  They’re so uncomfortable and difficult to wear many take them off before getting on the water. An instructor of a nearby shop said they found a few in the bushes.

A classic product I’ve seen on the market is ‘PFD in a Bag.’ A clunky orange PFD is tucked neatly in a mesh bag with a little pocket on top. It’s attached to a board via suction cups.  I took a class in California two years ago which had these on the boards.  Mine kept falling off due to beach sand getting into the suction cups.  I spent much of the lesson trying to keep the thing on the board using my paddle.

This happened in Idaho recently to a Washington State resident..

The individual drowned after falling off his paddleboard and could not get back on it,” Speer said. “A life jacket was on the front of the board, but the individual could not get the life jacket off the board in time to be used — and the individual ended up drowning. http://www.kivitv.com/news/local/213910141.html

You might ask, why couldn’t he get back on his board?
– Fatigue. (I’ve seen this one)
– Poor flexibility.
– A large belly.
– Poor arm strength, (solution is to kick legs as if swimming, this brings body to surface).
– No leash thus getting separated from board.  In wind many can’t catch their boards.
– A prior shoulder injury can make climbing on a board painful.
– Cold shock. Sudden immersion in very cold water knocks the wind out of you.
– Not knowing how to get back on, thus loosing balance and falling off again. (Get on in middle or tail).
– Inflatables – some have reported side rails and tails to be so high out of the water they can’t get on.

Wanna get an inflatable waist PFD?  Buy two cartridges and test it in the water prior to use. Most don’t know what happens when you pull the string.  There’s a few fails with this one but as always knowing how to use your equipment is always a good idea.

Here’s a few more accidents in 2013 from not wearing a PFD (lifejacket):

Martin County, Florida

Orlando, Florida

Salmon Bay Paddle SUP Tips

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