Waterski Vests Work Okay?

I’m trying to accumulate the gear for a family of four to kayak rivers. Obviously, that’s taking some money and I’d like to save it where I can while we get into the sport.

We have life vests and wet suits for us all - they are waterski/tow tube type, though. Will they work - at least in the short run - for us beginning kayakers?

My uninformed guess is that they will - but that purpose designed vests and wetsuits would be better. What I want to know is whether is any safety hazard or other reason that they SHOULDN’T be used.

I’m thinking that if we do get way into the sport we’ll get all the special purpose gear, but until that point it would be nice to use as much as we already have that will work in the short run.

Thanks in advance.

Waterski Vests OK — tube ???
If you have real vests type III PFDs they should be OK for class II-III whitewater. I used a wakeboarding vest for a long time for kayak surfing. If you are talking a waterski belt type preserver they are not meant for helping you stay upright and swimming in rough water. If you have a skirt and a high seat back the waterski vests might not fit well or be uncomfortable. A good PFD may cost you fifty bucks, how much is the life of a loved one worth. Don’t skimp on PFDs especially for kids, make sure its one that gives them adequate protection.

Try paddling and see how it feels

– Last Updated: Sep-03-06 12:48 AM EST –

My understanding is that ski vests are rather "hard-shelled" for more impact protection when a skier crashes to the water's surface at high speed. I suspect that translates into less comfort and mobility. I'd say try paddling in the vest, and if it feels alright, go ahead and use it. If it's unconfortable enough that you really don't want to wear it, you probably need something different. I'm sure you are NOT talking about "ski belts", as those things were removed from the Coast Guard Approved list decades ago and are no longer legal for skiing or anything else.

Good PFDs are rather pricey - I think mine cost me around $135 four or five years ago, but I'm sure you can find some like Seadart refers to which are fairly comfortable and fully functional for about half that price.

As far as wetsuits go, I think they come in different thicknesses, but not different degrees of flexibility (I'm thinking about mobility again), but I could be wrong. Again, I'd say if you are comfortable wearing it while paddling, that's all that matters.

Support of a tube type?
If you are in current, would the vest you are talking about aid someone in keeping their heads above water? Or would they raise the waist at the risk of sinking the head?

“Tube” refers to the towed craft, not…
… the life vest. Getting towed behind fast boats on a big “inner tube” has evolved to the point that special inflatable “craft” are now used instead, but they are still called “tubes” by the people that use them because using inner tubes is how the sport got started. Coast Guard rules state than anyone towed at high speed needs the same sort of skiing-style vest whether they are skiing or riding a big inflatable contraption. I think jet skiers need to where them too. Anyway, thats what the “ski- tube-type vest” refers to.

Oh - me dumb
Been a looong time since I tried water skiing. So I would guess this type of vest may risk chafing under the arms while paddling, but for starters can just wear thicker tops…

Any type III coast guard approved pfd
will do the job, even the $7 cheapie. Its comfort and design for the task that makes the difference. Most of the ski vests I come up pretty high under the arms…not good for kayak paddling, though they’ll work in a pinch. As for saving your life, either will …its all about task and comfort. The exception to me would be whitewater, there, I’d really want to have from the beginning the right type of pfd.

quick check
Put on the vest, sit on the floor and make paddling motions. If it doesn’t rub, chafe or bind, it should be fine to use for paddling.

tighten your cheeks
The water ski vests have more straps and are tighter fitting so they stay on when you wipe out. If you’ve ever had a regular bathing suit on and done a face-plant, you know what I mean.

it’s all in the fit
Been using my double buckle hardshell Liquid Force Contour waterski vest from the get. All good.

As long as the wearers have full range of motion w. no rubbing at the armpit (which would translate to chafing after a couple hours of paddling)it should be fine. Also, as others have noted, you’ll want Class III.