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Some paddlers use inflatable pfds for a bit of reassurance but minimal interference with their stroke. And some warm water cultures (Hawaii for example) may largely ignore the use of PFDs, but the statistics on drownings in cold water climates makes the advisability of wearing a PFD on cold water overwhelming obvious. Also if you want a potential rescuer to have a chance of spotting you, you would be well advised to choose bright orange or neon green/yellow colors. They have proven visibility at greater distances than other colors. In rough conditions it is hard to spot anyone, particularly separated from their boat, but the odds of being spotted are better with bright colors. (Airborne rescuers have reported little benefit from bright clothing Surfski Sea Rescue Exercise - though boat color makes a big difference, but on-the-water rescue personel report nearer to swimmer visibility advantages from the standard oranges and green/yellows.)

Brands and Suppliers

Made for Surfski

  • A number of brands make PFDs specifically for sursfki paddling. Since visibility is such a key aspect of rescue on large bodies of water these PFDs offer high visibility color options. These are non-US made and may not have gone to the expense of getting tested by the US Coast Guard. So they may not be “Coast Guard Approved” if a US race strictly requires that designation. But they do meet an ISO standard for adding bouyancy for on water uses - designed to be non-restrictive.


  • Please understand how to use an inflatable PFD (iPFD). You have to turn the pouch to your front side, unfold the yoke and slip it over your head before you inflate. If you inflate first before getting it over your head, you may find it difficult or impossible to get over your head. Or test the specific PFD you are using (use blow tube to inflate) and make sure whatever sequence you use is likely to be managable on the water even under stress.
  • When you replace CO2 cartridges for an inflatable PFD - pay attention to the cartridge size. The cartridge size needs to match the rated buoyancy of your iPFD. (check manual, or look online, or be careful about looking at the old cartridge - My M-16 iPFD uses a 16 gram cartridge, but the cartridges from Japan that came with the iPFD reversed the digits and say “61 grams” on the cartridge)
  • Sources

Other PFD Sources/Brands



pfds.txt · Last modified: 2021/10/02 19:34 by preavley