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15th August 2012 02:01 PM
Jean-Marc On the selection of what type of PFDs is best suited for your water sport activities (type I, II, III, IV and V) according to the US Coast Guards recommendations:


2 conclusions :

1) "Most of the victims owned PFDs, but they died without them. A wearable PFD can save your life, if you wear it. When you don't wear your PFD, the odds are against you. You're taking a chance on your life. Always wear your PFD. Even if you become helpless from hypothermia, your PFD will keep you afloat".

2) "In terms of risk of drowning, the safest Personal Flotation Device (PFD) is the one youre willing to wear! Obviously, the best PFD is the one that saves your life every time its needed.
The very best performing PFDs ever made, Type Is, provide only a small increase in probability of survival over a Type III PFD (type III = made for waterskiing, canoeing, kayaking)".

"Conclusion: The best PFD is the one that matches your needs!"

Cheers !

15th August 2012 12:39 PM
Jean-Marc Hi,

I don't think the world is getting mad about health and safety.

Every rider, novice to expert, should know the hazards that are associated with water sport activities, be it windsurfing or whatever else.

A good example about windsurfing hazards and safety : http://www.dbw.ca.gov/Pubs/Windsurf/index.htm

The difference between life and death situation in windsurfing is the capacity of your own body to fight hypothermia.

"Hypothermia is the life-threatening lowering of the body temperature which can result from accidental immersion in cold water. Even brief exposure to cold water can cause numbness and confusion which could result in helplessness and drowning". See the following link for more info about that : http://www.seagrant.umn.edu/coastal_...es/hypothermia

The main point about hypothermia is your survival time when your body is immersed in water. In medical physiology, water is 23 time more energy-loss and heat-conductive than air. When immersed in water, you will loose energy if the temperature is below 37C. The colder the water, the quicker your energy loss, the shorter your survival time. As simple as that.

To increase your chance of survival in case things go wrong and to help your body fight heat loss for an unexpected long time, it is strongly advised to always wear a wetsuit and a PFD/life jacket. These 2 safety measures will greatly increase your chance of survival against cold in water. A third measure is to adopt the HELP foetal posture when your body is in water while waiting for search & rescue help. HELP = Heat Escape Lessening Posture to reduce heat loss and energy loss of your body. It is way easier to keep this foetal HELP posture when wearing a PFD/life jacket without having to swim to keep your head out of water in order to breathe normally.

No health and safety madness going on here, but just to know the hard facts about true hazards and the 3 protective safety measures anybody can take to fight hypothermia when shit happens. And shit will always happens at least once during your lifetime just because the zero risk does not exist, especially with mechanical sports. Unfortunately, one very bad mishappening is enough to get you drowned. Choice to bet on this unlikelyhood is your own responsability. Would you bet on this if the "PFD could save one person a year from drowning" is indeed yourself ? For me, this bet is worth the trouble to wear a PFD and still be alive and well after windsurfing for 32 years...

Cheers and ride on !

15th August 2012 07:58 AM
mcross19 Del do you wear a high visibility vest when crossing the road?

I think the world has gone health and safety mad!

Yes PFD's could help save the one person a year from drowning whilst out windsurfing but by the sounds of things the PFD can actually get in the way of the harness hook and cause an accident thus resulting in you knocking yourself out!
14th August 2012 02:41 PM
Jean-Marc ... a quick market product research about PFD/buoyancy aids that are compatible with a seat or waist harness:

a) PFD with a high harness hook hole:


b) PFD/buoyancy aids that are compatible with a waist harness:

O'Neill Superlite USCG wake/waterski vest (4 buckles, no front zipper, bottom buckle may be left unclosed to ease access to high harness hook) http://www.oneill.com/#/men/europe/c...t/black_white/


Caution about so called "kite vest" or "impact vest for kitesurfing" : they have very low buoyancy/flotation capacity, much less than 50 N:


c) kayak-designed PFDs :


These kinds of PFDs are fine with a low hook racing seat harness type. Problems I see is that they are too bulky to be worn over a waist harness and the presence of a front zipper might severely hinder/reduce the free access to the high harness hook when windsurfing.

Cheers !

14th August 2012 12:37 PM
Jean-Marc Hi,

I'm wearing a PFD/buoyancy aid almost all the time while windsurfing, be it in ultra light wind on the Serenity or blasting at high speed in strong winds.


The question of wearing or not a PFD is indeed a risk analysis between life and death in case of a mishappening. As simple as that.

It does not matters whether you are a novice or an experienced rider simply because shit happens at any time without prior warning. Gear can fail and break without warning while out at sea (mast, boom, fin, sail, mast extension, universal joint, bolts, etc...). A wipe-out while blasting at high speed can hurt you seriously (broken ribs or shoulder, muscle bruise).

3 advantages of wearing a PFD :
1) it helps you with more buoyancy while waterstarting resulting in less fatigue and less energy loss,
2) it keeps your upper body and core organs warmer, even worn over a lycra top or a neoprene shorty and,
3) it protect your upper body and vital organs against impacts during wipe-out (boom, mast, board, fin).

Key is to choose the correct PFD best suited for windsurfing. I've tried many different brand and type but the best PFD are those made for jetski or waterski. They are specifically made for high speed water activity and therefore are snuggly cut to your body. They have multiple heavy-duty straps/buckles, and are made with tough and resistant materials. They are designed with a long and low back, covering your waist and protecting your low back/kidneys from bruising.

The choice of harness is key because of the low back cut of these jetski/waterski PFD. Wearing such a PFD with a racing seat harness is no problem, providing the harness does not have a high back support, which can interfere and superimpose itself with the low back support of the PFD.

A waist harness is kind of problematic with such jetski/waterski PFD. The best trick is to wear the harness directly over your body and superimpose the PFD over the harness. Let the harness hook protrude out of the 2 unziped sides of the PFD inbetween a pair of straps/buckles. I have seen some PFD specifically designed for kitesurfing that have such a "hole feature at the level of your navel" that allow the underlaying harness hook to be freely accessible throughout the overlaying PFD.

Some PFD designed for windsurfing are perfectly compatible with waist harness because they are cut with a very short back/front. However, they are bulkier as compared to the jetski/waterski PFD and tend to move up your chest over time. Tying or strapping the PFD to the harness bar is a good way to prevent this kind of PFD to move up your chest.

Whatever PFD you choose, I don't recommend the very bulky standard sailing yellow life jacket with a high collar while wearing a harness. These life jacket are OK for kids or novice learning the basic of windsurfing, but once your skills improve, you will sooner or later want more freedom of movement, ease of use and comfort while wearing a seat or waist harness. Sure, the standard sailing yellow life jacket is the one that does offer the best buoyancy and best survival chance because they will in effect save your life if you are knocked out unconcious - because the high collar support your head out of water and prevents you from drowning-, but a snugglier, thinner and softer PFD that follows your body movement is much better IMHO than wearing the bulky sailing life jacket or, worse, wearing no PFD at all.

Safety has no price, especially when it come to your own life. Wearing a PFD is the first step you take to increase your own chance of survival without depending on external factor that you cannot keep under control 100% of the time (wind gusting, gear failure, distance from shore, swimming ability, search & rescue crafts, etc...). Choice is yours...

Cheers !

13th August 2012 11:38 PM
Del Carpenter The question of whether to wear a PFD or not is often answered using a flawed risk analysis. Windsurfers tend to correctly judge that the likelihood of needing a PFD is very low. But, stopping the analysis at that point is a mistake. A full assessment of the risk has to account for the consequence of not having a PFD when one is needed. When a PFD is actually needed, death is a likely consequence of not having one. I have never needed a PFD and I don't expect to ever need a PFD. But I do not windsurf without one (except for the rare times when I leave it at home).
3rd August 2012 07:52 PM
NewStoke I usually don't wear one, but if I were to go way out in the ocean I would. I usually stay about 100-200 feet to shore so I can swim it in if needed.
3rd August 2012 12:38 PM
Roger I've used them and still do in places where PFD's are required and at times when I'm sailing alone in
windy choppy conditions.
I have a PFD from Perception Kayaks that works quite well.
It will fit over a seat harness, but it's not as easy to hook in and unhook as without the vest.
Look for one that has more flotation in the front and high up so it will do the same thing as a
full USCG approved Type I PFD and turn you face up out of the water if you are unconcious.
Unfotrunately there are head trauma and life threatening things like heart attacks that you
can survive, if you float with your face out of the water and can breathe.
3rd August 2012 11:29 AM
personal floatation device

I like to wear life jackets to give me a little more confidence and relaxation that falling and being a yard or two away from my board is no big deal. I was thinking that a kayak vest may work out great because it is very high cut as not to interfere with sitting inside a kayak. They also have big arm holes to allow for paddling.They are approved USCG Type III floatation devices. Being high cut may also work great for harnesses. Has anyone ever used on of these or heard of someone using one ?

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