Gear Review: Vaikobi Ocean Racing PFD, v3

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Vaikobi, ocean racing pfd, paddlexaminer

The V3 is the current version of Vaikobi’s long running and immensely successful Ocean Racing PFD. Built on the tried and tested design of its predecessors, the V3 Ocean Racing PFD contains subtle refinements to enhance comfort and functionality. The V3’s unique features include:

  • A new soft wicking liner for improved moisture management
  • Slightly larger front pockets to fit larger devices
  • Larger hose guide tabs
  • Light gray side panels and mesh pockets

Pro Tip: The wicking liner is a great spot to write your name, phone number, and paddling club affiliation.  

I’ve used all three versions of the Vaikobi Ocean Racing PFD and the enhancements made to the V3 contribute to making this my go-to PFD for outrigger, surfski, and SUP. Vaikobi’s V3 Ocean Racing PFD is highly likely the most comfortable, performance oriented PFD on the market. The Ocean Racer contains six adjustment points, four on the sides and one on each shoulder, so you can easily configure the straps to your desired comfort level. The larger hose guide tabs on the V3 are a much needed upgrade and the new wicking liner helps the PFD breath and is soft on bare skin. The later a definite bonus when paddling on hot days and for female paddlers wearing a performance bikini top. 

Additional product features include:

  • Built to ISO 12402-5 standards
  • Soft, form fitting foam construction
  • Two fully closable mesh pockets with a lanyard
  • Lightweight and breathable
  • HiVis colors for maximum visibility
  • Hydration compartment with routing loops for the drink tube
  • No side panels
  • Padded shoulders
  • Front zipper 

Like its predecessors, the V3 contains a hydration sleeve on the back panel. Having your hydration pack integrated into your PFD is a fantastic benefit and gives the model an edge over many of its competitors. The PFD is highly visible (four color options), contains two well positioned zipper pockets, and the full front zip makes the PFD easy to take on and off. 

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I was paddling off Redondo Beach this past fall in one of my outrigger club’s OC-1’s when the rear iako had a catastrophic failure and snapped on my return back to the harbor. I’m a capable swimmer, but there is no doubt that the fact I was wearing my Vaikobi PFD made the entire experience of swimming a quarter mile back to the harbor mouth with a busted canoe a bit more manageable. 

When it comes to overall performance, the Vaikobi V3 Ocean Racing PFD’s lightweight and sleek, streamlined profile is the perfect complement for performance paddlers. I can’t imagine paddling without wearing mine. It’s so comfortable I sometimes forget to take it off!  

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