Should I Wear A Life Jacket Paddle Boarding?

by Kyle
Should I Wear A Life Jacket Paddle Boarding?

In recent years, paddleboarding has become increasingly popular. It has evolved to a point where both adults and kids will enjoy SUPing.

However, a SUP board is a relatively small watercraft, and it’s easy to tip over. So, when enjoying this fun new activity, wearing a life jacket is essential to ensure your safety!

We will therefore cover the definition and classification of a life jacket in this post. Then, we will figure out its advantages and disadvantages to make a verdict.

What Is A Life Jacket?

What Is A Life Jacket?

A life jacket is a buoyant device that helps keep you afloat in the water. It’s also known as a PFD or a personal flotation device.

The buoyancy of a life jacket typically comes from foam, rubber, or plastic materials trapping the air inside.

As a result of this buoyancy, it has saved countless lives over the years. Therefore, it’s considered an essential piece of equipment for most watersports.

The Classification Of Life Jackets

Rough Water Life Jacket

The rough water life jacket is the most effective one. It’s also known as a Type I PFD.

It has a minimum buoyancy of 22 lbs or 10 kg.

This life jacket is strong enough to keep an unconscious wearer afloat and turn their face up. Therefore, it will help you survive even the direst situations.

However, it can be pretty heavy and uncomfortable.

Calm Water Life vest

A calm water life vest is the popular choice when it comes to safety gear. It’s otherwise called a Type II PFD.

It boasts a minimum buoyancy of 15.5 lbs or 7 kg.

This life vest has a decent buoyancy. Plus, it’s comfortable to wear. Some of these vests can also be pretty stylish.

On the other hand, it’s weaker than a rough water life jacket.

Flotation Aid

The Flotation aid performs best during watersports activities in calm waters. It’s also known as a Type III PFD.

It has a minimum buoyancy of 15.5 lbs or 7 kg.

Paddling inland waters become safer and more comfortable if you have one of these. Moreover, there are many designs for this life jacket.

Unfortunately, it’s not as buoyant as the rough water life jacket.

Throwable Inflatable Device

The throwable inflatable devices are highly versatile and can perform in various environments. It belongs to the Type IV PFD category.

It has a minimum buoyancy of 16.5 lbs or 7.5 kg.

These devices are excellent for rescuing people in the water. It’s relatively easy to use and deploy.

However, this device may not be able to save unconscious people.

Special Use Device

Special use devices offer excellent efficiency and comfort. It’s also known as a Type V PFD.

It has a minimum buoyancy of 7.5 lbs or 3.4 kg.

These devices are specialized for specific water activities. In addition, it can also inflate manually or automatically, depending on the model.

But it’s less buoyant than the other types of PFDs.

The Advantages & Drawbacks Of Wearing A Life Jacket While Paddle Boarding

The Advantages & Drawbacks Of Wearing A Life Jacket While Paddle Boarding

Safety is the top priority while you paddle a SUP. Moreover, it’s also needed to be legal on the water.

Nevertheless, wearing a life jacket can cause some issues for paddleboarders.

Therefore, we will look at both the advantages and the drawbacks of a life jacket for paddleboarding.

Main Advantages

In the world of SUPing, a life jacket is considered a necessity. After all, wearing one of these will offer numerous benefits to the rider.

We may view these advantages,

  • Even before you start to paddle, wearing a life jacket will provide you with a boost of confidence.
  • It will drastically reduce the risk of drowning if you somehow fall off of your SUP board.
  • The jacket will also protect your torso from minor impact-based damages when falling in the water or on your board.
  • It can add another layer of warmth to protect you from the temperature drops and hypothermia when paddling in cold waters.
  • The Type I PFDs are strong enough to keep you afloat even in rough weather.
  • In addition, Type I and Type II life jackets will be able to flip you over so that your face is above the water.
  • There are many different life jackets for various SUP activities. Therefore, you can get one that suits your needs the best.
  • SUP life jackets can be pretty comfortable and fashionable.
  • You can also find life jackets that will automatically inflate with a CO2 cartridge, or you can go for a manual inflation PFD.
  • With a bright color PFD, you will become visible over long distances. It will help others spot you quickly in case of an emergency.

Aside from these, you can customize a modern life jacket for paddleboarding tours and trips. Furthermore, you can even purchase a life jacket that will carry your SUP fishing gear and supplies!

Main Drawbacks

Wearing a life jacket while you are paddleboarding may also cause some difficulties. 

Let’s take a look at these drawbacks,

  • Heavy, bulky lifejackets can impede your ability to move more freely while you paddle.
  • Wearing a vest that doesn’t fit you may cause more harm than good by tangling up in the water.
  • It can reduce your swimming speed in the water.
  • Beginner SUPers may find it challenging to balance on top of a board when wearing a Type I life jacket.
  • If you choose an auto-inflating life jacket for SUPing, you may end up wasting a lot of CO2 cartridges.

As long as you find a suitable life jacket, you can avoid the majority of these drawbacks.


The advantages far outweigh the drawbacks. Thus, it seems reasonable to wear a life jacket when paddleboarding.

A Few Tips & Tricks To Pick A Suitable Life Jacket

Picking a suitable life jacket is no easy task. Fortunately, there are ways to make the process a bit easier.

For instance,

  • If you wish to paddleboard far away from the shore and into the unpredictable ocean, you can narrow down and limit your search to the Type I PFDs.
  • When paddling near the shore, you can use a Type II life jacket.
  • If you want to paddleboard in inland water bodies, you can rely on the Type III life jacket.
  • Or, if you plan to go on a SUP fishing trip, you can choose a specialized PFD.
  • Also, a Coast Guard-approved PFD will typically be well suited for watersports.

In addition to saving your life out in the water, a good life jacket will let you paddle confidently. To ensure that you choose your vest carefully to ensure a smooth SUPing experience check out our list of the best PFDs for SUPs.

Conclusion For Should I Wear A Life Jacket Paddle Boarding

Whether you’re new to SUPing or an experienced paddler, it’s essential to wear a life jacket when you are out on the water.

Also, be sure to equip your little ones with PFDs before bringing them on paddleboarding trips.

This way, you will be able to paddle in peace and appreciate the outdoors even more.

We hope you enjoy your paddleboarding and be safe!

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