PFDs on a SUP

How to wear a PFD (Personal Flotation Device) and still look cool

by Mary Lou Cerami

While most paddlers conscientiously sport their PFDs anytime they hit the water, many first-time paddlers mistakenly believe a PFD, or personal floatation device, is bulky, uncomfortable, or completely optional accessory.

A PFD is required by law.

The U.S. Coast Guard recognizes a SUP as a vessel, thereby requiring all paddlers to have a PFD on board while paddling outside the designated swim or surf zone.

Additionally, local laws and many outfitters renting you their equipment require the PFD to remain on at all times while on the water.

When worn correctly, a PFD will save your life.

Make sure your PFD fits. Wearing one that doesn’t actually fit your body negates its purpose entirely, if it’s too big or not secured correctly it will just come off in the water when taking a spill.

When falling off your board into water colder than our bodies are used to, there is a series of physiological reflexes (largely outside of your control) that cause a gasp response when your head is suddenly submerged. We take in water instead of air into our lungs, and the risk of sudden drowning is very high – this is known as “Cold Shock”.

While wearing a jacket-style PFD it’s much easier to keep your head above water when you fall in. Also, there are more minimal PFDs that automatically inflate when you hit the water. There are others, like the belt-pack style, that require you to pull a cord to enable the device when you are already in the water.

Check out all the types available and see what fits your paddling needs best. Make sure whichever you select is U.S. Coast Guard approved – it will be labeled as such.

Coolness factor

Choices abound on the many type of PFDs available, the traditional jacket style comes equipped with strap adjustments and convenient pockets to stash your gear. There are PFDs in extensive colors and styles. And check out some pretty cool styles made solely for women’s smaller frames. And once you own the gear, you are more willing to use it thereby getting in more paddling time out of your summer.

It’s great seeing more and more paddling magazines outfitting their models with PFDs while paddlieboarding. Contrarily, a recent spread in a J.Crew ad featured a bikini clad woman & man standing on a paddleboard, wearing no safety equipment of any kind. The heated response on social media drew lots of criticism and negative feedback over J.Crew’s apparent unconcern for the message they are sending.

I feel it sends the right message to paddlers of all levels to wear my PFD while practicing SUP Yoga on a paddleboard – So join me in spreading the word!

Share it

Share a photo on your social media page wearing your PFD. Use hashtag #PFDsAreSexy — because they are!

Check out pics from my SUP Yoga classes and check out all you can do while wearing properly fitted safety gear.

About the author:
Mary Lou Cerami is a Level 2 certified ACA Paddleboard Instructor. Mary Lou teaches SUP Yoga Skills Courses, Instructor Trainings and SUP Yoga classes throughout Chicago every summer. During the off-season you can find her teaching studio classes on the Indo Board – a balance board workout that’s a great way to train SUP anytime.

Book online now!