Whether you call them life jackets, life vests, or wake vests, when picking one, consider size, the type of vest (U.S Coast Guard approved or competition-style), and the vest's material.
Size Determine your correct wake vest size by measuring around the thickest part of your chest and checking the specific wake vest sizing chart on each individual wake vest product detail page. Being that most wakeboard vests are designed to be form-fitting, men and women should have their own wake vests. Always make sure that wake vests are appropriately sized for the intended user.
U.S. Coast Guard Approved (USCGA)Wake Vests United States Coast Guard (USCG) approval means that the wake vest has passed rigorous testing and is, therefore, better suited to keep you afloat after taking a hard digger. We recommend that you look for the USCG approval number on any wake vest that you buy. Be sure to read the manufacturer's label and the "Think Safe" pamphlet that is attached to the wake vest. Valuable information is contained within these materials.
Competition-Style Wake Vests (Comp Vests) These wake vests are lighter-weight and usually more flexible than their U.S. Coast Guard approved counterparts. Comp Vests will float you, but aren’t guaranteed to keep your head completely out of the water in the event that you lose consciousness on a particularly bad fall. Comp Vests are not U.S. Coast Guard approved.
Materials Nylon vests are cheaper and more adjustable and are commonly used for accommodating different sized people.
Neoprene vests are form-fitting and allow for more mobility. Neoprene has become the standard in wake vest construction.
Types Wake Vests are available in a variety of different styles and types including side-entry, molded/sectioned, and pullover designs.
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Life jackets are something you do not want to cut corners on. If spending a few extra bucks means a safer, more comfortable vest then it is a no-brainer. In wakeboarding, there are two major types of life jackets. The first type or style of life jacket is the U.S. Coast Guard Approved jacket. These life jackets will keep you afloat and if knocked out in the water they will roll you over on your back and keep your head out of the water. The second type of life jacket would be the comp jacket or Non U.S. Coast Guard Approved life jacket. These jackets are designed to provide their users with a greater range of motion while wakeboarding. The downside of the comp jackets is that they will not keep you afloat as well as the bulkier Coast Guard Approved vests will.