I use the Astral V8 and have loved it from the first paddle. It’s super, super light weight. I found it by doing some research on surfski.info and it was listed in some article as one of two obvious choices for surfskiing – the other being the Mocke.
I got it just before we left for the Wildside relay. I admit to feeling “validated” when Greg Barton showed up in the exact same PFD.
Heather bought a Mocke recently, and those are quality as well. The biggest obvious differences are that the Mocke is a pull-over vest, and the Astral is a front zip. Also, the Mocke has a big front and bigger back center pocket. The Astral has a smaller front side pocket that would hold a smaller VHF, and an even smaller upper front pocket that’s for things like chapstick, a whistle, etc. I don’t have an accurate enough scale to weigh them, but I would estimate the Astral is 25-40% lighter than the Mocke. This is just my estimate by picking them up.
I used the Astral on the 24 hour paddle and had zero chafe – something that’s been hard for me to achieve over the years. It also save my bacon 2 or 3 times when I went for a swim. J They’re $105 through REI, so with your membership discount you’re under $100.
I must admit that my days of inflatable PFDs are over. With this jacket, I’m converted to “already buoyant, no compressed air required” PFDs.
Let me know if you’d like to check them out… you could do a side by side.