Get The Best PFD for SUP (Buying Guide)

Nothing is more exciting than getting out on the water and navigating by yourself on your paddle board. But while SUP is a wonderful water sport,  it does require some safety gear. Primarily, a personal flotation device.

Personal flotation devices, or PFDs, are essential to any water sport. If you lose your balance or run into something, then a flotation device will give you the time necessary to regain your composure. Plus, it is required for paddlers by the U.S. Coast Guard.

What To Consider Before Buying

When you purchase a flotation device for SUP, there are several features you must keep an eye out for specific features.


To ensure that your PFD works properly, it must be properly sized. Adults must consider their chest size, and not their weight when picking the right PFD for them. Sizing can vary based on both brand and model, so you should visit an outdoor outfitter and get good measurements. Your PFD should fit snugly around your chest, while still allowing you to move freely while paddling. When you are getting fitted, you should wear your SUP clothing. This will help you achieve the best possible fit, so you will remain comfortable throughout your paddleboarding journey.

Women should strongly consider getting PFD’s that are specially designed to fit their bodies. The women’s PFD market is extremely robust and features several innovations that will make wearing a PFD easy. A quality women’s PFD will include princess seams, contoured cups for larger busts, and styles specifically designed for longer torsos. All of these innovations have led to more comfortable PFDs for women.

Every PFD will have a slightly different design and different foam placement. Getting the perfect fit is difficult, but you will be more comfortable if you put real effort into your search.

Getting the right fit

Getting a PFD in the right size is just the first step. You must also get the right fit. Fortunately, getting properly fitted is a fairly simple process. First, you loosen all of the straps, and you put the PFD on. At that point, you zip the PFD on. Once the PFD is on, you should start tightening all of the straps. You should tighten the shoulder straps last. If you have the right PFD, then it will be snug, but not completely uncomfortable. After you have tightened the straps, you will need someone to pull up on the PFD shoulders. The PFD should not move past your nose. If it does, then you should tighten the straps further. Once everything is properly tightened, you should move around a bit. You need a wide range of motion for stand-up paddleboarding, so make sure you are confident in your ability to move freely. Finally, you should test your PFD in either a pool or the shallow end of a lake. Make sure you are fitted properly for every waterboarding trip.

What type of PFD do I need?

PFD’s are classified into five different types, but several of these types do not apply to SUP. Depending on which waters you intend to traverse you may need either a type II or type III PFD’s. Type II PFD’s are near-shore devices. These devices are specially designed for calm inland waters, where you will quickly be rescued. The device is meant to turn an unconscious wearer face up, but it may fail. These flotation devices are fairly bulky but are great for calm waters. Type III devices are meant for paddlers that will be further from shore and are unlikely to be rescued quickly. If you are with a group or near land, then you should strongly consider these PFD’s. Type III devices are designed to offer total freedom of movement and the most comfort. Type III devices are meant to help the user achieve a face-up position, but the paddleboarder may have to tilt their head. Most paddle boarders will find themselves using Type III floatation devices, but they may find a Type V device that works for them. Type V PFD’s are specifically designed for a particular task. As paddleboarding continues to grow in popularity, there should be more specially designed devices on the market. Make sure you are purchasing a Type III device or one meant specifically for paddle boarding when you buy your PFD.


Buoyancy is the amount of force required to keep your head above water. Most people have some natural buoyancy in the form of fat, so they only need around 7 to 12 pounds of buoyancy to keep them afloat. If you are fitter, then you will be less buoyant. Most PFD’s have a minimum standard of buoyancy, but those that are extremely fit should probably test their PFD before heading out into the water.

Helpful features

The PFD market has exploded in recent years, so people now have several helpful features to consider. Some PFD’s come with tabs, allowing you to attach a knife, whistle, or other accessories. If you paddle board in areas where you need these tools to get you through obstacles, then you should strongly consider checking your potential purchase for tab placement. Pockets are extremely useful when paddle boarding. You can use pockets to store small items or other things you find on your adventure. You may even store a source of water in these pockets. If you want pockets, then be sure that you PFD includes enough pockets in the right size. You will find a huge diversity of colors in the PFD aisle. You want bright and exciting colors that are easy to spot. This could make the difference when you are hoping for a rescue. Finally, some PFD’s are specifically designed for hot or cool weather. If you know you will paddleboard in the cold, then get a PFD that will help you stay warm. Looking over the additional features can help you optimize your SUP experience.

Children’s PFD’s

If you have a child, you will have to find a fit just for them. Sizing for children depends on weight. Kids between eight and thirty pounds must wear an infant PFD. If your child is between thirty and fifty pounds, then they must wear a child PFD. Finally, children between fifty and ninety pounds must wear a youth PFD. For young children, there are several important features to look for in your PFD. The PFD should have a padded head support to keep the child’s head from going underwater. There should be a grab handle to help retrieve the child from the water. Finally, there needs to be a crotch strap to keep the PFD from riding up. When you put the PFD on the child make sure it fits properly. A well-fitted PFD will fit snugly on the child. Test the fit before you take your child out on the water.

Caring For Your PFD

Your PFD can last for years if you care for it properly. Before using your PFD avoid stretching it to make it fit. Also, check your PFD for tears and other major issues. While in the water, avoid putting sharp items in the pockets. That can cause tears. Also, avoid leaving the PFD in the sunlight for too long. After you are done using, rinse the PFD out and allow it to drip dry. Do not use harsh detergents on the PFD, or dry it in the drier. This can destroy your flotation device. Store your PFD in a cool, dry area that has plenty of ventilation. If you properly care for your PFD, then it may last years.

SUP is an ideal hobby, it allows people to get the exercise they need and see the water. Before you head out onto the water, you should make sure that you have the right equipment. Get a quality PFD, and start enjoying the water today.

Last update on 2022-11-24 at 05:58 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API