Super PFDs, might they aid skills?

No this is not a prank post. Seriously, what if paddlers used Whitewater guide rated PFDs, the one rated to 22 lbs. or more floatation. Would their use for some folks help them to scull, brace, and roll back up without extiing their boats?

No, I am not voting equipment over skills, actually the contrary, using the higher floatation to assist folks to not bail, to stick with skill acquisition, etc.

In addition, I feel they could be a safety factor if one becomes ill, seasick, or injured in large conditions, far from shore.


look at the kokatat sea 02
you can inflate it up to 22 pounds manually

Maybe, but …
I have a Swiftwater Fury at work. 22lbs. of floatation and it does float you well, but it is not nearly as comfortable to paddle in or to wear while working out of our boats, so I have switched to Stohlquist paddling vests (both at work and at home). Frankly, I wouldn’t buy a hi-float for paddling and couldn’t afford two expensive models if one was only to be used for skills development. On the other hand, if the instructor owned some to loan to his/her students …


Extra flotation can make rolling harder.
Getting a PFD up from a typical 16 lb level to something like 22 lb often results in more drag as the PFD moves through the water, and more water weight picked up in the PFD when your body clears the water.

Extra flotation certainly can make a swim more comfortable, and sometimes warmer, but it is unlikely to help rolling. I have used PFDs with up to 32 lb, and my best rolling results come with a compact Sherman with 16 lb.

My 2 cents …
There is little doubt in my mind that having quality equipment is beneficial to paddlers.

I have doubt in my mind whether a pfd with 22lb of flotation, or any “equipment” is going to do much for improving a paddler’s sculling, bracing, or rolling skills. I believe a paddlers technique is more important than the amount of flotation their pfd has.

Take a rookie canoe paddler; give them a fully outfitted $1,800.00 whitewater canoe, a $250.00 helmet, a $200.00 whitewater paddle, a $200.00 pfd with 22lbs of flotation, a $700.00 dry suit, and turn him/her loose on the Upper Gauley.

Without skills the gear won’t mean a thing. The river will “eat” that canoe & paddle, and it might eat the helmet, dry suit, pfd, and the person that’s wearing it.


help rolling

– Last Updated: Apr-11-06 7:51 AM EST –

what I have done is with my offside balance brace which I am still working on, is that I have taken a paddle float and put it under my pfd with the valve right by my mouth. I have inflated it enough to get into proper muscle memory learning position in a balance brace and slowly let the air out until I can do it with just the regular pfd. With time I should be able to guide my body into the proper position without it...

Can't see the sense in buying a super pfd with lots of extra flotation when this is a very simple and cheap solution.


So where was it?

Where under your PFD was the paddle float? Under the front (chest) - under the back of it - in your drysuit? (hey ladies, check THIS out!!)


Just “trolling” on you, Paul!!



Static brace maybe
I was gonna say it may help in moves like the static brace but in dynamic moves I think the difference in bouyancy is not enough to overcome the instability of bad technique. It would be worth a test, though.

Extend this thinkng…
… and pretty soon you don’t even need a kayak!

just using approximately the same kind of flotation that you get with a tuiliq.

Scott…on the chest under the pfd with the valve right by your mouth…Obviously you don’t blow the thing up completely, just a littl bit or you would pop up like a cork…just enough to figure out where you need to position yourself to balance your arched body against the boat and keep it from falling over on you.

what the heck…it works and I can see where I will not need it at all in a couple of sessions and a bit more outfitting.


The next thing you know
nay-sayers will be advocating giving up using PFDs at all (“Without skills the gear won’t mean a thing”).

All I can say is what I know from firsthand experience. I first learned how to reenter and roll with a high-floatation vest. I was surprised at how easy it was, floating on my side the whole time.

Imagine my chagrin when I first tried it in nature, with a 17-lbs vest and sank into the upsidedown “keel” position!!!

Only in retrospect did I figure out that the difference was in the vests. So, in my case, in the static position, the difference was clear.