As with all sports safety gear, the fit of a life jacket is extremely important for any watersport. For a proper and safe fit, the wakeboard vest should be very snug and not more than three inches up and off your shoulders. It is also important to note that each PFD brand might fit differently so re-evaluate your vest size even if you think you know what size you are. Oh, and try it on before you go wakeboarding. Whether you are purchasing your life vest in a store or online, make sure you try it on, move around, bend over, and twist to make sure it’s snug but isn’t too constricting.
Different Life Vest Materials
Neoprene Life Vest
These vests are softer, warmer and offer more mobility. This is the same material that wetsuits are made of.
Because neoprene is extremely elastic, even swimmers are using suits made from this material for unrestricted movement. Neoprene life vests also add an additional layer of cushioning that can ease impact. And of course, there is the added benefit of insulation from the cold.
Nylon Life Vests
Most life vests are made from nylon materials. These vests may be slightly heavier and typically have a decreased range of motion. That being said Nylon vests are usually cheaper than neoprene vests, however, if you are planning on spending a great deal of time doing what you love on the water it’s worth the investment for a more comfortable style.
Types of Wakeboard Vests
There are two types of wakeboarding jackets most commonly seen in the industry.
USCG Approved Life Vests
The classic life jacket style is typically US Coast Guard approved. This means that in the event that you end up in the water from a fall your life jacket will turn you onto your back, keep you afloat, and with your head above water.
The other style of life vest is what is called an impact vest (also called competition vest). Impact vests are made more for the rough and tumble, but they can also be more lightweight, form fitting, and flexible; however, while they will help keep you afloat, they are not USCG approved and may not keep your head completely out of the water. They’re great for a wakeboarder or waterskier looking for a full range of motion that allows for more natural comfort to maximize their riding style.
Another thing to consider, if you are riding cable parks, the added padding and protection that comes with a more classic life jacket might be worth it, however, competition vests do still have targeted padding. It’s really what works best for you. Impact vests are becomingly increasingly popular, especially among riders who are experienced and can anticipate a fall. Not only because they offer more flexibility, they also have a much more sleek look. It is important to mention that you cannot operate a personal watercraft (PWC) while wearing an impact vest. With all that being said, safety should be the number one priority.