Wearing a Life Jacket for Surfing or PFD – All You Need to Know

Do you need a life jacket when you are out surfing? When you see someone surfing in the ocean, do they look dangerous? Would a life jacket ensure yourself and those around you are safer on the water? Or is it just another waste of money to help fuel the surf industry?

The answer depends on whom you ask. Life jackets are becoming more popular over time due to new regulations from the U.S. Coast Guard, but some surfers are still against the idea of using one.

Life jackets can save lives and prevent injuries, so why have there been protests against their use? People often protest that wearing life jackets is uncomfortable while in the ocean and it takes away from the intensity of surfing that involves riding waves.

Others argue that a life jacket helps surfers feel less like they are being judged as an inexperienced surfer and more like a part of the surfing community.

Why do I need a life jacket for surfing?

In waters that have a dangerous rip current or any other hazard, life jackets are strongly recommended. Many surfers agree that wearing a life jacket is the best way to keep from drowning.

Even if you don’t fall into the water, someone else could be swept away by a rip current and pull you in with him while he is trying to survive. Wearing a life jacket helps prevent injury or death and shows that you are taking the necessary precautions.

Are surfers required to use life jackets by law?

Currently, there are no federal laws that require surfers to wear a life jacket. However, nine states have adopted voluntary rules requiring board riders to wear personal flotation devices (PFDs) at some time during the session. They include California, Florida, Hawaii, New Jersey and Oregon; local ordinances require PFD use in Delaware and New York City.

Are there alternatives to wearing a life jacket when surfing?

Some surfers wear a life jacket over their wetsuit. This protects a surfer from drowning and ensures that he/she does not get separated from his/her board if they fall off into the water.

It is also important to mention that there are many types of PFDs for surfers, ranging from vests to jackets and some even have surfboard attachment systems.

It is important to choose a PFD that fits you well and is good quality. A life jacket should be able to support the user’s full body weight, keep them afloat in all conditions and also provide protection from weather elements.

Life jackets are not cheap either but there are many ways to find more affordable alternatives. Some things to do include:

Avoid specialty life jackets, such as ones made for surfing, unless you are specifically looking for one that supports your surfboard. It is also important to find the correct size and a life jacket you can wear comfortably on top of your wetsuit.

If you plan to surf in a cold environment, find one that can keep you warm. Life jackets are not designed to be worn without a layer underneath, otherwise you will get too cold from wind chill and it could even affect your breathing while surfing.

One alternative is to get a pullover type jacket that can easily become a life jacket when needed. They are useful because they don’t have zippers or other potential entanglement risks and they are cooler than vests, but not as bulky as full-body PFDs.

Can you surf with a life jacket on?

So a life jacket will keep you safe but does it have an impact on how you surf? Some surfers feel that it is safer to wear a life jacket when they are learning, but once they become more confident in their board control, they prefer to take the life jacket off.

What about PFDs?

A PFD is a personal flotation device that is designed to help keep you and your fellow surfers safe. PFDs are very important because they provide safety and lessen the risk of drowning if you fall off your board.

It is recommended for people who want to protect themselves on their surfboard, especially in dangerous waters such as rip currents. A rip current is

If you are new to surfing and think that a PFD is right for you, it is best to rent one first. Once you feel more confident with your board control, you can purchase a full body PFD or even get a pullover type jacket depending on the conditions where you surf.


The benefits of a life jacket are clear. Not only do they provide safety and lessen the risk of drowning if you fall off your board, but also protect from injury or death when someone else is swept away by rip currents and pulls you in with him while he tries to survive.

Life jackets may not be required by law everywhere just yet, but it’s always best to take precautions like these so that nobody gets hurt on their surfboard. If you’re interested in more affordable alternatives for PFDs – such as renting one first before buying – we’ve got some ideas listed!

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