View Full Version : repost: the life jacket problem

7th June 2007, 07:13 PM
Alright. I did post this on the windsurfing school forum too but I need responses fast so I decided to post twice.

My mom said that she wants me to get a life jecket or other boyancy device for sailing in the summer when I don't have a wetsuit to give me the boyancy.

I need suggestions on what to get. Do I get an impact vest that works with a waist harness? Do I get a specialized life jacket designed for windsurfing? Or do I just do what I normally do and go out with my harness and rashgaurd + shorts and try and convince her I won't fall or hurt myself?

She is worried about me going unconscious and drowning

Thanks for the help. If anyone has any suggestions let me know. If you have any experience with products also let me know. I weigh around 150 lbs and am 6 foot.


7th June 2007, 08:11 PM
First off, a wetsuit will NOT stop you from drowning if you are unconscious, so she has been lulled into a false sense of security.

I'm not sure of what the Canadian equivalent is or if you use our USCG certification rules. If you don't have a USCG (or equivalent) personal floatation device, you can't be sure that you will turn over onto your back (face out of water) when unconscious. That's what they are designed to do. Floating is a good thing because it preserves your energy, but that's for when you are in the water and struggling to get the sail out of the water.

Ok, with that said, you can decide to (a) enlighten you Mom to the fact that you aren't secure with a wetsuit on if you are unconscious or (b) don't worry about getting a USCG (or equivalent) PFD for the summer ... just get one that has floatation but won't turn you over.

When I want a little extra buoyancy in the summer, I wear a competitive slalom ski vest. Most are NOT USCG approved, but they do add a bit of buoyancy. I like this option because it does not restrict your movement too much if at all. USCG might not either, but I don't like the bulk required to turn you over when unconscious.

More important, in my opinion, is to wear a helmet when heading out in high winds or conditions that will push your abilities. This includes when you are learning something new or expect to be crashing a lot. I have never had a head injury, but started wearing a helmet in 4.8 conditions and below. I've since realized that I am willing to push myself harder with the helmet on... and subsequently I've hit the helmet on the mast quite hard on two separate occasions (I would have had a concussion for sure during one of those crashes).

Also bear in mind that your life jacket decision should be based on how well you swim and how in shape you are. I image others will have dissenting opinions so wait awhile for others to chime in before making a decision.


7th June 2007, 08:45 PM
Dunno if u can get prolimit in Canada, but if u can, it's a magnificent and cheap brnad which hasn't given me any problems at all.

7th June 2007, 09:34 PM
I use a Mustang inflatable vest. Very light and it does interfere with a seat harness - I'm not sure how it would work with a waist harness.

I've seen the kingston guys use the mustang inflatable pack attached to their waist harnesses. You can buy mustangs at any canadian tire.

Remember, in Canada, big brother tells you that you must wear a life jacket or be fined something like $100.

7th June 2007, 11:30 PM
Hi Thomas,

The suggestion that o2bnme offers concerning the use of a helmet makes real sense. I wear a helmet whenever I windsurf regardless of the windspeed or sail size. Although many frown on the use of a helmet, I personally feel safer and more secure using one, kind of like wearing a seatbelt while driving a car. Most of the time it could be considered unnecessary, until that time when an unexpected accident comes out of nowhere.

I wear the Gath helmet that was originally designed for surfing. It fits very close to your head and includes closed cell foam inside that doesn't absorb water. In addition to impact protection, a helmut offers a lot of warmth in colder conditions. Also, they offer a buffer against sudden water intrusion into your ears that can break an eardrum.

8th June 2007, 12:05 AM
Hello windsurferdagg

Personally I don't like wearing a PFD. The one time I wore one windsurfing I almost ended up with out my board 2 miles off shore in the great lakes. With a coast guard approve PFD on I couldn't swim fast enough to catch my board after a catapult. I've swam and caught my equipment thousands of time without a pfd, no problem. With the pfd on out in 20 knot conditions I was near exhaustion when I finally caught up with my gear. I regularly swim for fitness. I am a strong swimmer. The PFD was a major limitation. If your sail falls and the booms land and balance on your board it moves pretty fast until the sail finally blows off.

I'm not saying a PFD is the wrong choice for everyone. I'm saying for me, with the number of times I need to swim after my gear it's safer if I can swim fast.

If you're worried about consciousness o2bnme is right on, get a helmet. I have used a pro-tech wake ace helmet. I will be replacing it with a Gath Gedi. The pro-tech is inexpensive and provides good protection. The pro-tech I had used materials that corroded or dissolved after 3 years of fresh water exposure.

Since you are sailing in Canada you need to be wearing a Canadian Coast Guard and Transportation Canada approved pfd to be legal. You also have to carry a signaling device. The signaling device can be a whistle. The Canadian requirement is that the whistle be a pealess whistle. When sailing in Canada I strap on a Mustang inflatable pack. The Canadian approved pack is Mustang model number MD3021. Following are links to the mustang web site and poco marine. Poco marine was the best price I could find for the inflatable pfd. I like this small pack because strapped in the small of my back it doesn't slow me down in the water.



The guest poster almost had it right. You will get fined if the Provincial Police catch you windsurfing without a pfd. But the fine can be more than $100. The Canadian law is if you are wearing a pfd and a signaling device you don't have to carry a "manual propelling device, a water tight flashlight or three Canadian approved flares Type A, B, or C and One buoyant heaving line no less than 15m in length." A sailing buddy got lippy with an OPP officer about receiving a fine for not having a PFD on. He got fined for the rope, the flashlight, the paddle, the whistle, and the PFD. Each infraction was $100. So if the officer that busts you is having a bad day it gets real expensive real fast.

So the mustang inflatable may seem expensive but it's a lot cheaper than the fines.

Here's a link to the Canadian marine safety page that covers the requirements.

Here's a link to a US Coast Guard approved pealess whistle. The Canadian requirements do not require Canadian Coast Guard approval on the pealess whistle.

I checked with the OPP marine enforcement division. The MD3021 is fully approved for windsurfing.

Once again not telling you what you should do just trying to share well researched information and personal experience


8th June 2007, 12:55 AM
Another point about a life vest. It gets you stuck under the sail. ;-) I've had that happen a long time ago... haven't worn a USCG-approved vest since.

I had forgotten about how hard it is to swim with one on as well!

I can't remember the last time I used a USCG-approved vest in the water.

8th June 2007, 01:00 AM
helmet WITH face guard in survival conditions, PFD with impact dito!

8th June 2007, 02:55 AM
awsome guys. I was thinking maybe an impact vest like the prolimit one that crazychemical was talking about. I was looking at helmets too. I was thinking a whie water kyak one would be interesting to try. They fit close to the head, can help with major speed into rocks and ya.

Also, I find that ridiculus for windsurfers here in canada to carry a life jacket or not as well as a whistle. Almost all the time, you are sailing with people and ya. lol My friend got busted and had to pay 350 bucks for not wearing a life jacket. I can understand on the ocean where this can be dangerous and you might need a whistle and lots of boyancy, but a lake?

So I am thinking of getting an impact vest, telling my parents that the extra floatation comes at a cost (saftey, manueverablility etc) and il wear a helmet instead.

One more quetsion, what are you guys talking about face protection? like a hockey cage kind of thing? or mouth gaurd...

8th June 2007, 06:17 PM
I know some who wear a mouth guard like what a boxer would wear.

11th June 2007, 12:39 AM
Hey Dagg.
I use a Dakine Impact Vest in waves and high winds. These guys are correct it's not USCG approved so I suggest wearing a helmut also.
But it does help you to float better. Also I have crashed really badly and the vest will protect your ribs from getting cracked.
Also Chuck has a valid point, The PFD will limit how fast you can swim. They definetley will slow down your swimming speed. So there are pros and cons. It's a personal thing. I try to stay safe but there is only so much you can do. Probably the biggest thing you can do is wear a helmut. That way you won't get knocked out and drown. Hope this helps Greg.

11th June 2007, 02:29 AM
ahahah alrighty... I was thinking getting a light impact vest, streamlined etc as I will be learning jumping soon :-) and the helmet would help a lot. The white water kyak helmets look good. anyone used them?