A vest-style PFD built for high intensity paddling

Vaikobi has updated their original lightweight ocean racing PFD with a batch of new features which make what was already a solid product even better. The original PFD contained two open front mesh pockets. The pockets were appropriately located, but their open design meant you could not secure small items. This issue has since been remedied by redesigning the pockets to be slightly larger and fully closable. Each pocket is now able to be fully closed with a robust, non-corrosive zipper. As with the original model, the redesigned PFD still has a lanyard and clip in one of the pockets for attaching a small item.

The second new feature is the inclusion of four elastic loops on the shoulders to secure the drinking tube for a hydration bladder. The loops allow users to position a hydration tube on either shoulder and firmly secure it to the PFD.

A third new feature is the incorporation of a small elastic loop at the top of the main front zipper. At first glance I wasn’t sure about the utility of such a loop. I subsequently found, however, it is a perfect location to attach a small light.

My outrigger club holds its OC-1 practices in the mornings. We typically meet on the water at the entrance to King Harbor in Redondo Beach at 0545. It is now late spring and the sun is well on its way to rising at this time. From November to March, however, it was an entirely different story. Most club members wore headlamps. A headlamp works, but it is unidirectional, not to mention it blinds anyone directly in its beam. They can also get accidentally knocked off and be relegated to long-term underwater storage.

The only downside of hanging a small light from the loop is it attracts fish. I learned this on a few occasions, and even carried one little guy along for the ride in my foot well for part of practice one morning.

Doubles as a hydration pack

The Vaikobi Ocean Racing PFD is supremely comfortable. The main reason for this is it was designed to be worn while paddling. If you are a paddler who regularly wears a backpack hydration pack, I’m confident you’ll discover the Vaikobi PFD is even more comfortable to wear than even the best designed backpack. And you no longer need that backpack hydration pack because the Vaikobi PFD has a great big pocket on the back panel designed to hold your hydration bladder.

I’ve used a few different hydration bladders with the PFD and have settled on a 1.5L Widepac from Source Outdoor. I choose to use products from Source Outdoor because of their Glass-Like™ technology which delivers a superior taste compared to any other product I’ve tested. The 1.5L Widepac is a perfect size and the low profile design fits securely in the pocket of the Vaikobi PFD.

Vaikobi Ocean Racing PFD, pfd, vaikobi, sup examiner

At the finish of the Malibu Downwinder. Using a Source Outdoor Widepac with the PFD. Photo: OnIt Pro

Additional features of the PFD include the following:

  • ISO 12402-5 (Equivalent to AS 4758 Type 2)
  • Two fully closable mesh pockets with lanyard to store key safety items
  • Super lightweight and breathable
  • Hi Vis colors for maximum visibility
  • Hydration compartment on the back to store your hydration bladder
  • No side panels for maximum breathability
  • Easy access mesh pockets for storage
  • Padded shoulders
  • Front center zipper for ease of putting on

I use the Vaikobi PFD for OC-1 and SUP paddling. I’ve found it to be a fantastic piece of technical gear perfectly suited for both disciplines. So much so in fact that anyone who claims it restricts their paddling motion probably needs to spend some more time dialing in their stroke. The PFD does trap a small amount of body heat, but when paddling in the winter or on a cold day, this is not an issue. I wore it during an OC-1 race in San Diego last January on an approximately 75F/24C day. I did not overheat and had a good outcome in the race.

Similarly, the PFD is great to wear during high intensity SUP races such as open ocean downwinding. I wore the Vaikobi PFD along with a Source hydration bladder at the 15th annual Malibu Downwinder in late April. It was a cold day with a 20+ mph wind from the NW. As with OC-1 paddling, wearing the PFD while standup paddling is so comfortable you don’t even realize you are wearing it.

Learn more at Vaikobi.com

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Matt Chebatoris

Matt Chebatoris

Founder at SUP Examiner
Matt is a former national security professional and lifelong adventurer. He has published material on a variety of topics in the foreign policy arena and founded SUP Examiner™ as a platform to share his enjoyment of the sport with others. Matt resides in Los Angeles with his wife Karen and their tuxedo cat Maximilian.
Matt Chebatoris

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