How to choose the right PFD for you

July 29, 2020

Professional surfski athlete wears Vaikobi life jacket

A personal floatation device (PFD) is the key to staying safe and visible on the water during events training. But with so many kinds of life jackets, buoyancy aids and life vests available, how do you choose the right PFD for you?

20 years ago, PFDs were big, bulky, and restricted arm and chest movement significantly (not ideal for water sports that require constant arm and chest movement!). And more often than not, you would not get a choice of colour or size.

Technological Advancements in PFDs

Well, the good news is that PFDs (also known as Life Jackets/Vests or Buoyancy Aids) have come a long way over the past decade, and Vaikobi has been leading the charge in designing and developing a range of PFDs specific to your water sport activity with the goal of making you feel great when wearing them. If you feel comfortable when you wear one, then you are more likely to wear it and that increases everyone's overall safety and enjoyment on the water.

Top Level Athlete Design Input

One of our "not-so-secret" weapons here at Vaikobi is that we work with some of the world's best ocean athletes from across a range of water sport disciplines to help us design our products. And no, you don't have to be an elite athlete to wear our gear, but it does mean that we have put our gear through some very comprehensive testing and we have worked with our athletes to ensure a product that maximises comfort and performance on the water at the highest level of performance.

In addition to that, our in-house team here at Vaikobi fall in what you might say the "middle aged ocean warrior" category whereby we love getting on the water more than a couple of times a week and we hang out with a bunch of other like minded "ocean warriors" where we get a lot of additional feedback as to what they would like in our products. Having these great insights from our fellow Ocean Warriors and combining it with the feedback from our Elite race team of athletes is what sets Vaikobi apart...and we hope that you notice this in our life jacket designs.

Vaikobi all PFDs

So which Vaikobi PFD is right for you?

First of all, it is worth noting that all Vaikobi PFDs have been designed to ensure you have minimal bulk in areas where you need to move freely, and we use our unique form fitting foam which is super soft and comfortable to ensure that your PFD becomes "one" with you in a very short space of time. So because of that, you could choose any one of our products and be perfectly happy using them across a range of water sports. There are some differences though, so lets dive in to them.

1. What's your main discipline?

If you Paddle (Surfski, Kayak, Canoe, OC, Dragonboat or Kayak Fishing), then the V3 or VXP is going to be your jam. These have been designed to control body temperature when paddling, and also minimise disruption to your paddle stroke when in the boat. There are a few differences in features in the V3 and VXP, but we will get to that.

The Vaikobi VXP life jacket, shown in Fluro Yellow:



The Vaikobi V3 life jacket, shown in cyan:


If you Sail, Foil or do a high energy water sports which requires a very sleek, fitted and minimal PFD, then the VX PFD is the way to go.

The Vaikobi VX life jacket, shown in black:

V3 or the VXP?

Firstly, If you are female paddler and you were struggling to decide between the V3 or VXP, we would recommend the V3 due to extra comfort in the chest area and shoulder adjusters. Both PFDs are great in this department due to our soft form fitting foam, but the V3 edges out the VXP in this regard.

The primary difference between the two PFDs is the front zip and smaller front pockets on the V3, verses the large single gusset pocket on the front of the single front panelled VXP which is great to be able to easily store and access items you may need when you race, train or relax on the water.

For people doing lots of downwinders, the VXP is great to store your key safety items and easily access it.

Length wise, the V3 is slightly longer in the back (but thinner) and overall has a more narrow profile which has it's advantages. The VXP overall sits higher on the body and you access the PFD through the side and secure with a side adjuster clip.

Both PFDs have hydration bladder storage areas on the back as well as hose guide tabs on the front to make sure you can access your hydro hands free.

From an adjustability perspective, the V3 has both side and shoulder adjusters, which definitely helps you get the PFD sitting comfortably on your body. The VXP has super nice neoprene shoulder straps which feel very nice and comfortable when paddling and the shoulder straps have been designed at a length which enables the PFD to sit comfortably on your body.

What are the best settings for the adjusters?

The side adjusters can be easily tightened or loosened and we recommend that you always make sure that you have them done up firmly, particularly if you think there is a high chance you might end up in the water. At the very least, make sure the lower two side straps are done up firmly as these straps play a big part in stopping the PFD from riding up when in the water.

Important: If you don't do your side adjusters up firmly, your PFD will ride up when in the water and it will take a bit of effort to get it done up tightly and get back in position from in the water.

On the V3 with the shoulder adjuster, you need to set this at a height which feels comfortable enough so your chin will not rub on the PFD when seated, but not too low so that you can feel the PFD rubbing on the top of your thighs. There is an optimum position for your shoulder straps assuming you have selected the correct size.

How do I get the best out of the VX PFD?

The VX PFD is a much more fitted PFD with side neoprene panels and adjusters, so there is not much fiddling to be done with this PFD once you get the right size.

The main thing with that VX is selecting a size which feels nice and light and non restrictive.

So what size PFD life jacket do I need to wear?

This is the question we get asked the most, and our answer is to choose a buoyancy size for correct fit rather than on weight. The reason why we say this is that all Vaikobi PFDs have a buoyancy above the minimum floatation required for under our ISO 12402-5 certification.

If you choose a PFD that fits correctly, then you will be more comfortable and it will do its job better in an emergency.

Importantly at Vaikobi, all our PFD's feature extra long side adjuster straps which will allow for a larger range of body sizes to fit the one PFD. So this means that you can go down a size quite easily if that is the correct fit for you.

We have made the attached size chart which will help you select the correct size. If in doubt, go a size down than what you think you need for maximum comfort.


Vaikobi PFD Size Guide


How do I look after my Vaikobi PFD?

Vaikobi PFDs are made to last in the great outdoors, and we have these simple tips to prolong it's life:

Sun: Once used, we highly recommend that you keep your PFD out of the sun. The sun will fade the colours over time, so we do recommend you keep them out of the sun when not in use.

Wash in fresh water: Wash in fresh water after each use to ensure that the salt does not attack the fabric and components. There is nothing on our PFDs which will rust, but washing in fresh water after each use will keep it fresh for your next use and will help a lot in prolonging the vest's useable life.

We hope that this article has helped you choose the right PFD for you. Of course if you have any further questions, please do not hesitate to contact the team at

If you Paddle, Sail, Surf or Foil, then a Vaikobi PDF has you covered!



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XXS   161 167  54 58 76 81 62 66 78 82
XS   165 172  56 63 82 87 66 70 82 89
S   169  176  61 68 88 96 71 76 90 96
M   174 181  66 73 97 104 77 85 97 102
L   178  185  76 85 106 114 86 95 103 108
XL   183  190  86 95 116 122 96 105 109 115
XXL   187  194  96 105 124 132 106 114 116 122


Size HEIGHT (Feet + Inches) WEIGHT (Pounds) CHEST (Inches) WAIST (Inches) HIPS (Inches)
XXS   5'3"  5'6"  119 128 30 32 24.5 26 30.5 32.5
XS   5'5"  5'8"  123 139 32 34.5 26 27.5 32.5 35
S   5'7"  5'9"  135 150 34.5 38 28 30 35.5 38
M   5'9"  5'11"  146 161 38 41 30 33.5 38 40
L 5'10"  6'8"  168 187 41.5 45 34 37.5 40.5 42.5
XL 6'  6'3"  190 209 45.5 48 38 41.5 43 45.5
XXL 6'2"  6'4"  121 232 49 52 41.5 55 45.5 48




Y-S 132 139 30 34 60 65 56 61 68 72
Y-M 140 148  33 39 65 71 61 68 72 78
Y-L 147 155  40 47 70 76 67 73 77 84
Y-XL 152 162 47 54 75 82 72 79 83 89







    HIPS     (IN)
Y-S 4'3" 4'8" 66 75 24 26 24 26 27 28


4'8"  73 86 26 28 26 28 28 31


5'  88 104 28 30 28 30 30 33
Y-XL 5' 5'4" 104 119 30 32 30 32 33 35

Fit Tips

If one of your body measurements is in between two sizes, order the smaller size for a tighter fit or the larger size for a looser fit. If your body measurements for hips and waist correspond to two different suggested sizes, order the one indicated by your hip measurement.

How To Measure

WAIST: Measure around the narrowest part (typically where your body bends side to side), keeping the tape horizontal.
HIPS: Measure around the widest part of your hips, keeping the tape horizontal.
CHEST: Measure the fullest area of your chest. Stand up straight and breath normally.



Vaikobi size guide