Buoyancy/impact vests (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.
The three types of PFDs classified in Australia are 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
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 2 PFD made for canoeing. Note front pocket.
Type 3 PFD - partial flotation
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
Type 3 PFD
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.