(also known as Personal Flotation Devices or PFDs) provide some impact protection and additional safety. In some countries, such as Australia
and Canada, it is a legal requirement for kitesurfers to wear a PFD as they are classified as a "sailing vessel"
under marine law.
There are three types of PFDs classified in Australia - Type 1, Type 2 and Type 3.
Type 1 PFD - full flotation
- There are designed to fully support you in the water, including flotation behind your head to keep you head up
- Standard versions are bulky and cumbersome to wear
- Inflatable versions are slim but provide no flotation until they are inflated - there are two versions: manually inflation via a toggle cord, and automatically inflated on contact with water
Type 1 PFDs - Inflatable
Type 2 PFD - partial flotation
Type 2 PFD made for canoeing. Note front pocket.
- Provide flotation and some padding, but not behind the head
- Slimmer fit that a Type 1 PFD
- A bright colour with some reflective tape
- Suitable for use during night time
- Canoeing versions often have pockets for storing equipment and/or a water bladder
- These can ride up while kitesurfing so check carefully before you buy one.
Type 3 PFD - partial flotation
Type 3 PFD
- A slim fit flotation garment that also provides impact resistance
- Often designed for water sports such as water skiing and wake boarding behind boats
- Not suitable for use at night
- Usually no pockets for gadgets
Kitesurfing impact vests
- Impact vests are specifically designed for kitesurfing, with padding around the torso to protect from impact injuries
- Kitesurfing models are designed to keep clear of the harness
- Usually equivalent to a Type 3 PFD - but may not be rated as such. Check the labels inside the garment.
NPX neoprene impact vest for kitesurfing
Kitesurfing PFDs provide good protecting from impacts when you start doing jumps, in addition to providing some helpful flotation. They can also provide additional warmth in cooler conditions.
Check your local state and/or country regulations on use of PFDs, and when buying one, check it complies with relevant standards.