Nothing can compare to the thrill of going at high speeds while pulling off one impressive trick after another. After you get the chance to go wakeboarding, it’s hard to imagine that you’ll be satisfied with trying it only once in your life.As much as fun as wakeboarding can be, it’s obviously not without its risks. However, there are some simple things you can do to mitigate those risks and better protect yourself from any type of unfortunate occurrence.Something as simple as putting on a good wakeboard life jacket can make you feel more comfortable and secure while you’re riding on top of the water.
In this article, we will talk at length about the life jacket, including everything you need to know to find a good one to wear. We’ll also highlight some currently available life jackets and see if they can be ideal additions to your wakeboarding experience. At the end, I will also select what I deem as the best wakeboard life jacket.
Without further ado, let’s dive deeper into the topic of life jackets.
The Best Wakeboarding Life jackets go as follows:
- O’Brien Men’s Flex V-Back Life Vest
- Hyperlite Men’s Indy Life Jacket
- O’Neill Men’s Slasher Comp Life Vest
- O’Neill Men’s Assault Life Vest
- O’Neill Men’s Superlite Life Vest
We are now done discussing the factors that matter when looking for a wakeboarding life jacket. Now it’s time to highlight some of the products you’ll want to take a longer look at before your next wakeboarding trip.
1. O’Brien Men’s Flex V-Back Life Vest
If you found the lack of features in the item listed above to be disappointing, then you’ll likely be more fond of the Men’s Flex V-Back Life Vest from O’Brien.
The standout feature of this life vest is the presence of Biolite in its construction. As noted earlier, Biolite is capable of offering the same type of durability neoprene features with the addition of being lighter. If you’ve had trouble getting comfortable using neoprene vests before, you will want to see how this item works for you.
In addition to the usage of Biolite, this life vest also boasts the V-Back Stretch Panel. That feature is not a minor add-on. Thanks to it, the jacket can better fit itself over your body. You also won’t feel confined while wearing this life vest because of the included stretch panel.
The other panels present on this life vest are similarly designed to promote your comfort. Because they are segmented and adhere to specific hinge points, you can feature a wider range of motion while remaining confident that the vest will stay on.
Just be sure that you try this vest on before making a purchase. The sizes listed are somewhat inaccurate and the vest tends to feature a tighter fit than what you would expect from the listed measurements.
As long as you take the time to try it on first, you should be pleased with the performance this O’Brien safety vest delivers.
- Biolite material used throughout this safety vest adds valuable durability without extra weight
- V-Back Stretch Panel allows users to feel more comfortable while wearing the vest
- Panels are segmented to provide wearers with a wider range of movement
- Concealed belts offer additional security
- United States Coast Guard approved Type III PFD
- Good variety of size and color options are available
- To ensure a proper fit, prospective buyers are urged to try on this safety first and not just rely on listed measurements
2. O’Neill Men’s Slasher Comp Life Vest
Let’s make one thing clear right away about the Men’s Slasher Life Vest from O’Neill. Unlike the items already reviewed above and the other ones still set to be featured, this particular life vest is not approved by the United States Coast Guard.
You have to be certain that you can use comp vests in your area before you decide to get this life vest. You also have to be sure that you are skilled enough to wear this vest because it will not keep you as safe as the other products will.
With all of that out of the way, let’s get to the features of this item.
Of particular note to me is its usage of NytroLite foam. Once you put this vest on, you will immediately notice how light it is. Even compared to other comp vests, this O’Neill offering is remarkably light.
The aforementioned material also doesn’t take on water too well, meaning you won’t feel any different on top of your wakeboard after falling into the water.
The vest’s foam core has also been designed in such a way that you should be able to enjoy an extra-wide range of movement. It can sometimes feel like you don’t even have a vest on.
You can also put on and take off this vest quickly because of where the zipper has been placed.
If you’re a competitive wakeboarder, this jacket will definitely fit you well. For those just seeking to have a good time on vacation, this item is not a sensible purchase.
- Vest is fashioned out of the super lightweight material known as NytroLite foam
- NytroLite foam prevents this vest from absorbing too much water even if it sinks into the water
- Segmented foam core lifts restrictions on the wearer’s movements
- Zipper is in an easy-to-reach spot, making quick removal of the vest possible
- Clings to the body well without creating a tight seal
- Vest is designed to only be used by experienced water sports athletes
3. O’Neill Men’s Assault Life Vest
Even if you’re not keen on wearing a comp vest, you can still enjoy the benefits of NytroLite foam if you decide to get the Men’s Assault Life from O’Neill.
Since this life vest isn’t as optimized for weight as the comp vest listed above, the presence of the NytroLite foam arguably makes more of a difference. Some wakeboarders can feel uncomfortable using the Coast Guard approved items because they feature quite a bit of foam.
Even though there is still a substantial amount of foam inserted into this life vest, the special material used does not add the same type of bulk.
The designers of this life vest also did what they could to eliminate unnecessary bulk by installing anatomical flex points. They function pretty similarly to fixed segments and they are designed to free up more movement possibilities for whoever’s wearing this vest.
While wearing this life vest, you may feel it bunch up around the neck area though, making it uncomfortable. Get a larger size if that’s a problem you keep experiencing.
With polyester also featured in the material blend of this life vest, you can stay warm for longer even while you’re wakeboarding.
- NytroLite foam makes a return and continues to ease the burden on the wearers of this life vest
- Anatomical flex points work to effectively give the users of this jacket a greater range of movement
- Polyester present in the material makeup provides additional warmth
- Lower back lumbar pad provides a nice bit of support
- United States Coast Guard approved Type III PFD
- Vest tends to get a bit tighter around the neck and shoulders area
4. O’Neill Men’s Superlite Life Vest
The last item we’ll discuss in this article is another O’Neill offering, with this one being the Men’s Superlite Life Vest.
Right away, your attention will likely be drawn to the fact that this life vest is remarkably affordable. You don’t often see life vests offered at those prices.
So, are you getting a good deal here?
If you’re just looking for a safe vest that will keep you afloat in the event something goes wrong, it’s hard to really complain about this product. It’s Coast Guard approved and well-made so you know that it won’t fail you in a crucial situation.
It also fits well and generally manages to fall into that sweetspot where you can feel suitably comfortable.
There are some issues worth highlighting though.
For instance, this life vest makes use of nylon instead of neoprene. It’s a durable material, but one that doesn’t fare as well when it comes to regulating temperature.
It’s also an odd choice on the part of the designers to include so many buckles on the front of this life vest. They are necessary because they keep you in the life vest, but you’ll end up wishing that at least some of them were replaced by a zipper.
Still, for the price you can get this safety vest, it’s hard to really complain about those other features when the item itself protects you well.
- United States Coast Guard approved Type III PFD
- Conforms to the body of the wearer well without feeling too loose or too tight in certain spots
- Vest features good durability thanks to the polyester shell
- A good option to consider for those looking for a life vest without busting their budget
- Makes use of nylon instead of neoprene, which causes it to struggle with temperature regulation
- Way too many buckles are utilized
5. Hyperlite Men’s Indy Life Jacket
We’re starting with a life jacket you can afford even if you haven’t gathered a sizable budget for your next wakeboarding trip. The Men’s Indy Life Jacket from Hyperlite is a pretty solid representation of a basic safety vest.
It’s a Coast Guard approved Type III PFD, so you know that it meets those important safety standards.
Weight is not an issue whatsoever when it comes to this life jacket. The neoprene material hardly makes an impression on your torso. To further offset any weight added to your body by this life jacket, it features the kind of drainage system that allows for the faster removal of water.
You are presented with two color options to choose from and both of them are more than acceptable style-wise.
Five size options are available for you to choose from. The smallest one will be able to accommodate individuals with chests that measure somewhere around 32 to 36 inches, while the largest option will fit those with torsos measuring around 52 to 56 inches.
You have to get the sizing right before you purchase this life jacket. It’s tough to make adjustments while wearing this jacket. It would be best if it just fits you perfectly as soon as you wear it so you no longer have to worry about that.
- United States Coast Guard approved Type III PFD
- Makes use of neoprene material that doesn’t add any noticeable amount of weight
- Excellent drainage system installed gets rid of water in a hurry
- Numerous size options available for you to choose from
- One of the more budget-friendly life jackets you can get
- Difficult to adjust while being worn
- Compared to other similar items, this life jacket does not come with plenty of features
The Factors You Need to Consider When Shopping for the Best Wakeboard Life Jacket
Life jackets may all be designed to keep your head above water, but they are not all the same. When shopping for a life jacket, you will have to consider the type, the fit, the materials used, and all sorts of other factors.
Let’s get into those factors now.
The Type You Need
Since life jackets are worn by different kinds of people, there are also different types of them that are being sold.
Some wakeboard life jackets are designed specifically for women. It’s important for women to seek out those life jackets because those will provide them with more comfort and will fit their bodies better.
Comp vests, which are also known as competition vests, are also available. Comp vests are sought out by more experienced wakeboarders because they offer a greater range of movement, according to WakeMakers. They also don’t add that much weight, which is helpful to those looking to perform more complicated tricks on their wakeboards.
The downside to comp vests is that they don’t offer much in the way of flotation.
Crucially, comp vests are not approved by the United States Coast Guard. That’s important to know because in certain states, wearing a life jacket that is not approved by the Coast Guard may not be legal.
The riders who want to be as safe as they can be out on the water will want the Coast Guard Approved (CGA) life jackets. CGA life jackets are typically bulkier and heavier than comp vests, but they also offer improved flotation. The increased amount of foam placed inside CGA life jackets is what enables them to provide better flotation.
Because of their safety features, most people prefer to use CGA life jackets. Before getting one of those though, you need to know more about the different options provided.
The Different Types of CGA Life Jackets
There are five different types of CGA life jackets, per Dick’s Sporting Goods.
First off, you have what’s known as the Type I PFDs or Off-Shore Life Jackets.
They feature around 22 pounds of foam-based flotation, thus making them the most buoyant of the options currently available. People who don’t have plenty of experience being in the water will benefit the most from using the Type I items. They are also suitable to be used regardless of whether the water’s calm or rough or anything in between.
Next up are the Type II PFDs, which are also known as the near-shore buoyancy vests. The foam variants offer 15.5 pounds of flotation, while the inflatable options can provide as much as 33.5 pounds of flotation. These are best used in locations with calm water.
Technically speaking, the Type IV PFDs, or throwable devices, are not life jackets, although they should be used together with one.
The special use devices or Type V PFDs are designed to be used during specific activities. You will not see people using these life jackets often.
Since you’re here for wakeboarding accessories, the CGA life jacket you should be targeting is the Type III PFD or the flotation aid. Type III jackets also feature 15.5 pounds of foam-based flotation, but the inflatable variants provide 22.5 pounds of it.
The main reason why the Type III jacket is best for wakeboarding is because it manages to provide a more than adequate level of flotation together with comfort. It also helps that these life jackets are lightweight, thus making it easier for you to move around while wearing them. That’s a key feature for wakeboarding.
Getting the Right Fit
Fit is obviously essential when it comes to life jackets. A life jacket that is way too big for you is not going to be particularly helpful in the event that you fall off your wakeboard.
According to Sierra, the diameter of the torso is the most important factor in determining whether a life jacket will fit an adult well. You will want to measure the widest part of your chest to get an accurate read on its diameter.
For a more hands-on approach to getting the fit of your PFD right, you will want to put the jacket on with the straps undone. After that, you will want to zip the jacket up and fasten all the straps. Make sure that the front panels are located right in front of your chest. You should then pull on the torso straps included to tighten up the fit of the vest, but don’t go overboard with it.
With the jacket secured, you can now try to pull it up. You will know that the jacket fits you well if it mostly stays in place. If it moves too much, you may need something a bit smaller.
The Difference Materials Can Make
The two materials manufacturers like to use the most when creating wakeboarding life jackets are neoprene and nylon.
Neoprene tends to be more expensive, but even so, manufacturers and wakeboarders alike have developed a fondness for this material. It’s easy to see why.
Neoprene is resistant to water and chemicals while also being resilient enough to withstand the wear and tear that would normally ruin other materials. It can also remain comfortable regardless of whether or not you’re using it while it’s hot or cold out.
Aside from being more affordable compared to neoprene, nylon is also a light material that can dry quickly. Those nylon properties help wearers remain comfortable. Nylon can also change its shape easily, meaning it won’t tear right away if you happen to stretch it too far.
Some wakeboarding life jackets may feature a material other than neoprene and nylon. Biolite has also been utilized in the creation of life jackets.
Material District notes that Biolite is a natural fiber that features reinforced polypropylene injection molding material. When it comes to water and tearing resistance, it is on par with neoprene. Furthermore, Biolite is also lighter and a more eco-friendly product compared to neoprene.
Stretchable panels are not easy to find on life jackets, but they can do a lot to make you feel more comfortable while you’re wakeboarding.
It’s also important for the adjustable straps to be in easy-to-reach places so that you can apply quick tweaks whenever you need to.
Having varied color and size options to choose from would also be ideal so that different members of the family can get the same type of jacket without having to worry about its quality.
After getting some firsthand experience using the life jackets listed above, I can easily say that the Men’s Flex V-Back Life Vest from O’Brien is my favorite.
The Biolite material does so much to increase the durability of that particular vest and the panels work effectively to give you as much range as you’ll need while wakeboarding.
You can easily feel secure and comfortable while wakeboarding using that O’Brien life vest.