Surfing is an incredible way to experience the water. The thrill that comes from catching a wave is unmatched and keeps surfers coming back for more. But if you're new to the sport or aren't a strong swimmer, you might be a little fearful of the great blue ocean. If that describes you, maybe you're looking for a little protection. We've looked to pros and novices alike to determine whether surfers wear life jackets, and the answer may surprise you.
You can absolutely wear a life jacket while surfing. In fact, if you're inexperienced or not a strong swimmer, you probably should wear one. Experienced surfers usually don't wear one because they are strong swimmers and prefer the freedom of movement. No matter if you wear a life jacket or not, you should always be cautiously aware of your surroundings while surfing.
Your safety while surfing should be the top priority. That's why we're excited to help you determine whether or not you should wear a life jacket while surfing. We've done the research and have compiled this guide, including a list of the best life jackets for surfing. Read on for more info on life jackets, other surfing apparel, and water safety.
Can you wear a life jacket while surfing?
Are you a new surfer? Or, are you a weak swimmer? If so, you should probably wear a life jacket while learning.
Life jackets are usually vests and are made out of plastic foam such as polyvinyl chloride or polyethylene. They're designed to help a person float without much effort. Additionally, most life jackets nowadays are meant to turn a person onto their back so that their face is out of the water. This is important, unfortunately, when someone is unconscious.
On the other hand, experienced surfers don't usually wear a life jacket or another Personal Floatation Device (PFD). Most experienced surfers are strong swimmers and are less likely to fall off the board accidentally.
Many of these athletes would say that wearing a life jacket restricts their movements. They would prefer to go without a life jacket for the sake of comfort. This is especially true because the first step in surfing is laying on the board while paddling to the desired location. Life jackets can also decrease a surfer's balance by adding weight to the top half of the body. Many experienced surfers think wearing life jackets makes them more prone to accidents.
Even if you wear a life jacket, you should still be aware of the dangers of surfing. The life jacket does not remove the need for you to be careful or aware of your surroundings. You should develop self-sufficiency skills for the ocean, including strong swimming, hazard identification, and understanding your personal limits.
Are you new to surfing? Read this article for the basics when beginning this great sport: "Is Surfing Easy or Hard to Learn? [Here Are the 6 Steps to Take]."
What do you wear when you go surfing?
Your surfing outfit should be based on the temperature of the water. If the water is warm, a typical swimsuit is often acceptable. However, many people wear a rash guard so that their upper body doesn't get irritated while laying on the board and paddling. A full shirt also helps protect against sunburn.
Neoprene Vests & Tops
As the water gets colder, a neoprene vest or jacket can help keep your upper body warm. Vests keep your arms free, which is important to many surfers, while a jacket gives you plenty of warmth and protection. Below are examples of each format.
As the water gets even colder, you should consider a full-body suit. Spring suits, like the one below, have short arms and legs, and some might even be tank-top style up top. These suits usually come with two millimeters of thickness in the chest area and one millimeter everywhere else.
Finally, full wetsuits should be used when the water is almost dangerously cold. These suits are called "wetsuits" because they are intended to get wet. Then, the material traps a layer of water inside the suit, which your body heats up and retains for warmth. Most wetsuits, including the two below, have two millimeters of thickness all the way around.
Cold Water Wetsuits
This suit is more than twice as thick as a normal wetsuit, with five millimeters of thickness. It also has a hood for maximum warmth. You would only need a wetsuit this intense if you were surfing in dangerously cold water.
Thinking about using your surfing wetsuit for scuba diving? Be careful because wetsuits are designed for a specific sport. Read this article for more information: "Can A Surfing Wetsuit Be Used For Diving?"
Do you need a life jacket with a wet suit?
Wet suits have a little buoyancy, especially if they are thick like the last example. However, they're not nearly as buoyant as a life jacket. Like we mentioned above, feel free to wear a life jacket if you prefer. Make sure the jacket is roomy enough to fit over your wetsuit without being too loose.
Surfing has tons of benefits like enjoying the beauty of the water, the adrenaline rush, and socializing with other boarders. But does it help build muscle? Check out this article for details: "Can Surfing Build Muscle? Here’s What Beginners Need to Know."
What is the best life jacket for surfing?
If you're going to wear a life jacket while surfing, your best option is a lightweight one that helps you feel secure without bothering your movements. Modern technology has helped in this area and has created inflatable life vests. These PFDs are relatively flat until you pull the cord. Then, the jacket's inflatable portion puffs up with air.
At first glance, this jacket looks like a normal neoprene vest. But don't be fooled: this jacket has an inflatable portion in the upper chest. In addition to protecting you with buoyancy, it will also help keep you warm on chilly days.
Even for experienced surfers, this jacket can be useful. It's designed to protect even big wave surfers, able to propel the wearer up and out of the water quickly. Though it has maximum buoyancy, this jacket is unobtrusive: you'll hardly notice it's there until you need it!
The jacket below is easy to use and inflatable. An added benefit is how adjustable it is. Two different dimensions are customizable, so it can be worn on top of your skin in warm water or over your wetsuit if it's cold. Make sure to measure your sizes carefully to get the right size.
This jacket isn't inflatable, but it's still great for surfing. It's thin enough that your weight isn't thrown off balance but is padded enough to make you comfortable while you're paddling. This padding is also helpful for inexperienced surfers who might fall off their board more often.
Do big wave surfers wear life vests?
Big wave surfing is a term used to describe surfing waves of twenty feet or more in height. These waves, which are higher than normal, can push a fallen surfer far under the water. This means that the surfer has to hold his or her breath for longer and must swim quickly to the surface.
Because of this added danger, most big wave surfers wear inflatable vests like the ones above. This allows them to pull the cord whenever they need to without being restricted.
Life jackets are designed to keep people safe in the water. If you are a weak swimmer or are inexperienced in dealing with wavy water, a life jacket is a good idea. Experienced surfers prefer going without a life jacket since it decreases their freedom of movement and can throw off their balance.
Whatever you decide, make sure that you're surfing safely: pay attention to your surroundings, travel in pairs, and know your own limitations. Hopefully, this article has helped you make some practical decisions about life jackets and surfing. Good luck!