Stand-up paddling boarding can be one of the most peaceful outdoor activities you can engage in. When simple precautions are taken it is also one of the safest. That said, since it takes place out on the water there is one inherent risk, but one that can be mitigated with a proper personal floatation device (PFD). Below is a breakdown of what you want to consider when looking for a PFD along with Sea Gods’ recommendations.
Everything You Need to Know About PFDs and Life Jackets for Stand-Up Paddle Boarding and Which Canadian Brand We Recommend
You Need It, Even If You Think You Don’t
When paddling with kids or even a pup a PFD for all involved is a given. In fact, Individual PFDs should be a part of all family SUP quivers. But there are a large number of individuals without dependents who have been and continue paddling without wearing a PFD. We want to reiterate the importance of wearing one at all-times, whether you’re a seasoned waterman/waterwoman on the open sea, or a novice paddling over waist-high water.
The reason, is that anything can happen. A rouge jet-ski may cause unexpected wake that causes you to slip and hit your noggin on the edge of the board, leaving you temporarily unconscious. Someone with an underlying heart condition also faces the risk of being momentarily incapacitated and unable to tread water. An individual that has an anaphylactic reaction to bee sting on the lake may also require a few extra minutes before being able to gather up the strength. The possibilities are numerous, but a PFD will buy you enough time to recover or have someone come to your rescue. You may not think PFDs look cool, but you must admit that staying alive…is much cooler.
Oh, and Transport Canada requires all stand up paddlers to have a PFD “on board” while operating the vessel. You’re not legally required to wear it, but you most certainly must have one with you.
The Different Kinds of PFDs for SUPs
Basic Foam PFD
These are the ones that come to mind when most people envision a traditional life jacket. They are made of foam, and are typically what is provided to you when renting a SUP from a lakefront kiosk or hotel. You can find them hanging on the wall at the likes of Canadian Tire or other major retailers. This option typically deters SUPers (who may not be aware of alternatives) from using a PFD as they are often large, cumbersome, and restrict proper movement when paddling or climbing back on the board. That said, wearing one is certainly better than paddling without a PFD. Traditional foam PFDs are also well-suited to children, with Mustang Survival’s line of foam PFDs for kids which include (but are not exclusive to) the following:
- Infant Classic Foam PFD (with grab handle)
- Classic Child Foam PFD (with grab handle)
- Youth Classic Foam PFD (with grab handle)
Neoprene (same material used for wetsuits) is more comfortable, not as bulky as basic foam PFDs, and many paddlers prefer the look over the latter. However, they are heavier especially after getting wet, which can make you feel a bit lethargic when paddling for awhile. If you prefer this route, we recommend Mustang Survival’s Horsepower Neoprene PFD which offers one of the most flexible fits on the Canadian market.
If you’re a fan of the fanny pack’s return to glory (even if ironically so) then your eye may be drawn to this option when shopping for SUP PFDs online. An inflatable belt is essentially a fanny pack with an airplane life jacket rolled-up inside. It has a rip cord that you pull with a CO2 cartridge for inflation. This minimalist option is of no use if rendered incapacitated and can't pull the cord. But if we can’t convince you otherwise then Mustang Survival’s Minimalist Manual Inflatable Belt Pack is the recommended option among them.
Automatic Inflatable PFD
The option solves the issue of not being able to inflate a PFD when incapacitated. It automatically inflates upon water immersion. You fall in, it inflates, and you float face-up until you become conscious and/or help arrives. And because it does not inflate unless needed, it fits slimly and comfortably on the body and has no negative aesthetic impact on the SUPing fashion conscious. Simply put, when it’s comfortable, easy to use, and looks good, you’ll wear it more often.
“The Best PFD is the One You Wear” (Mustang Survival)
There are a number of automatic inflatable options on the market, but we recommend Mustang Survival’s M.I.T 100 Automatic Inflatable PFD. It provides 28 lbs of buoyancy when inflated, which is 1.5x greater than that offered by traditional foam jackets. And because it has been manufactured with exclusive Membrane Inflatable Technology™ (M.I.T.) SUPers enjoy a lightweight and flexible fit. The M.I.T. 100 Automatic Inflatable PFD is available in a highly visible red, or a more discreet camouflage.
Khimera Dual Flotation PFD
Khimera is not a type of personal floatation device, but a product from Mustang Survival. However, it covers so many bases that we feel it deserves its own place as a category on this list of Best SUP PFDs in Canada.
The Khimera was designed for paddlers, which means that it considers a SUPers distinctive biomechanics. It’s essentially a hybrid that provides the security of foam in a slim profile with the option to boost buoyancy (20.5 lbs) via pull-cord inflation that still keeps your movements fluid and dynamic. And if you change your mind about needing more buoyancy at any given moment you can employ the integrated deflation system. The Khimera Dual Flotation PFD optimizes paddling without the bulk of a traditional foam vest, but with all the safety. View more.
Ultimately, we love Mustang Survival’s M.I.T. 100 Automatic Inflatable PFD, and we all totally dig the Khimera Dual Flotation PFD. Even better, is that Mustang Survival is a local Canadian (Vancouver-based) outdoor adventure brand like Sea Gods. If you have any questions, feel free to contact us. Otherwise, choose your personal floatation devices by clicking the link below.