Strictly speaking it has been a year and a half since I first reviewed the Vaikobi Ocean Racing PFD. Since that time I’ve got a lot of use out of the PFD both as a stand up paddler and, more recently, paddling an OC-1. So much so, that I felt there would be value in revisiting the original gear review to reflect on the product’s enduring value.
I have one of the original Hi-Vis fluorescent yellow models and it is holding up well through repeated use. Since the introduction of their original Hi-Vis Yellow version, Vaikobi has added two additional colors options; a Hi-Vis Orange/Red model and a sleek, futuristic looking Gray/Hi-Vis yellow version. The functionality and features on each model is the same across the color range. Per their website, the Australia-based company has also upgraded the front mesh pockets by making them fully enclosable. The original model had open mesh pockets which have started to droop with time on the model I’ve been using making them somewhat less useful so the upgrade to fully enclosable pockets on the current models was a good enhancement.
Living in Los Angeles I paddle almost exclusively on the ocean, the domain for which the Vaikobi PFD was designed. To be clear, I often wear a belt pack PFD when paddling SUP. Belt pack PFDs are unobtrusive and great for warm weather. They are unequivocally the primary PFD used by the majority of stand up paddlers in Southern California and certainly have their place.
Where the Vaikobi Ocean Racing PFD truly comes into its own is out in the ocean, just as the name suggests. As anyone who paddles a couple of miles or more off shore can attest, the ocean gets really big really quickly. In other words, unless you have a support boat providing an escort, you’re going to benefit greatly from having a substantial vest style PFD. Not to be pigeonholed, the PFD is not just for going far offshore. If you are a paddler looking for a high degree of safety without sacrificing comfort this is the perfect PFD for you.
“Doesn’t it get too warm?” is a common question I receive from fellow paddlers. And yes, if it is a warm day with the temperature 75F/24C or up, then yes wearing the PFD may get a bit warm. It does trap some body heat – this is unavoidable. The Pacific Ocean off Southern California, however, is not warm. Most surfers wear wetsuits year round and stand up paddlers dust them off and pull them on in the winter months. When paddling a SUP on a cool winter day I love wearing this PFD as the vest helps keep my core warm just as wearing a vest on land.
Vaikobi: Multi-Sport Performance
The Vaikobi PFD performs equally as well for OC-1 paddling and since paddling a SUP is generally more strenuous than an OC-1 you can comfortably wear the PFD in an even greater range of ambient air temperatures. Throughout frequent use I discovered that the fact you are positioned closer to the water in an OC-1 compared to a SUP plays to the Vaikobi PFD’s strengths as the PFD acts as a wind and wave breaker by shielding your torso.
Regardless of which craft you are paddling, if the PFD causes you to warm up too much, I recommend loosening the straps. The amount of warmth I’ve felt from wearing the PFD is also dependent on wind direction. If the wind is at your back you may warm up sooner than if the wind is coming at you head on or from the side. There have been times when I’ve been wearing the PFD while paddling an OC-1 and I have warmed up during one leg of the workout only to rapidly cool off when turning to head a different direction.
Wearing the Vaikobi Ocean Racing PFD does not restrict your range of motion or hinder your paddling stroke in any way, even during intense training. This is truly a vest style PFD you can wear paddling. Then when you consider the PFD doubles as a hydration pack (hydration bladder not included), you can’t go wrong as it reduces the amount of gear you need to carry. If you are a paddler who typically wears a backpack style hydration pack, then there is a good chance you’ll find wearing the Vaikobi PFD more comfortable than your hydration pack due to the generously padded shoulder straps and even weight distribution throughout the PFD. Equally important, caring for the PFD is easy. Simply rinse after use and hang it up to dry (avoid direct sunlight as it is is harsh on the fabric).
I recommend the Vaikobi PFD for paddlers of all ages and abilities. While the word “ocean” is in the name, this PFD will also be a great option for paddlers on inland waterways such as a lake. It is comfortable to wear, has a great feature with the inclusion of a hydration sleeve, and will keep you protected on the water.
MSRP: AUD $159.00
Learn more at: www.vaikobi.com