Paging Those Kayaking with Vaikobi PFDs


Tell us about your experience using the VXP or V3 PFDs. A couple of questions to get you started:

  • How confident are you with their primary function of floating you if something bad were to happen?

  • How restrictive/obstructive for sit inside paddling?

  • How hot are they to wear during humid 80s-90s weather?

  • How was your purchasing experience? Did you order direct or purchase locally

  • How did you find the sizing?

Yeah, I know, a lot of questions. But I am really looking for a brain dump, particularly on the VXP, here.


Aren’t those not United States Coast Guard approved for use in the US? The floatation is lower than required, in my research.

I bought their other model, the one with a front zip opening and two small, concealed slit pockets. It has a large compartment in the back to hold a water bag similar to Camelbak.

I love this flotation aid (they do not call them PFDs) for one overriding reason: it FITS ME! The sizing comes in finer increments than the typical US-labeled XS/S, M, L, or some overly wide variation thereof, which have no size between Kiddie and the smallest Adult. None. A lot of people fall into that size range and have to tolerate gigantic, obstructive PFDs. OR they say screw it and just carry the PFD on deck without wearing it. I’d rather wear a proper fitting one then do that, but if I can only have one that doesn’t fit…

It also is neither too short nor too long, and it is not too thick. Yes, the flotation for my size is less than that of the usual one-flotation-standard-fits-everybody level of about 16 lbs. But I do not need 16 lbs to float me! The foam is obstructively bulky. A large youth-size PFD (9 lbs or 11 lbs, depending which PFD brand) floated me just fine, which I did test.

My Vaikobi had no trouble floating me in fair-sized waves, so it’s not just a calm-water thing.

Caveats: I absolutely will not endorse it for SINK paddling, even though I would use it for such myself. The manufacturer designed it with surf ski aficionadoes in mind, and those paddlers can swim and tread water. It is obvious that US PFDs are designed for the lowest common denominator, “everybody.”

You don’t say why you are considering a Vaikobi or one of the other foreign-brand flotation aids. If it is not about sizing or high torso mobility, there may be no advantage.

As for heat buildup, it’s not a mesh-heavy design. Surf skis and SOTs in general are not heat traps, since there is neither a top deck or a sprayskirt, and they are a wet ride despite bailers, Venturis, or scuppers. A PFD designed for hot climates, such as those with mesh backs, might better suit summer use in a SINK.

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I’m thinking a more streamlined pfd could help with remounting. I don’t surf ski but from just climbing onto duckies (IKs), sit on tops, and onto docks I have learned that one draw back of the astral designs that I wear is that they are bulkier in the front which hinders climbing up out of the water. I think astral morphed out of lotus works which orginally made jackets that weren’t coast guard approved if I remember correctly. Lifejackets were reclassified to include the change but there was a lag before the coast guard caught up.

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Thanks everyone for the great information so far. :+1:t2:

Are you thinking of getting a surf ski and want one PFD for all paddling? As tdaniel stated, the flotation aids are a little less thick in front, which is probably why flotation ratings are lower.

But I know the ratings on the USGS-approved PFDs are very conservative. The two youth PFDs I wore were marked as sufficient for a 90-lb person. I haven’t been that light in more than 50 years yet each of these PFDs floated me.

All of these categories ignore the paddler’s psychological comfort or lack thereof when unexpectedly dumped in water, and whether they can tread water, float, swim. Swimmers do not wear PFDs at all yet they happily do their sport, some in rough conditions.

Another factor is the inherent flotation of the clothing worn. Drysuits and neoprene wetsuits have some built-in buoyancy.

There was/is a push to change the existing buoyancy standards used in USCG PFDs. Maybe it already happened. I don’t know. I do know that the flotation aid I use does float me well.

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