Today’s professional wakeboarder is more “fashion conscious” than ever. Right? I mean, the collective standard for riding used to be board shorts, a vest, and maybe a heater top. A rider would only cover their vest to wear a bib in a contest. Ten years later we see pros riding in t-shirts, button downs, windbreakers, hoodies, and even pants (FYI: only Shane Bonifay is allowed to do this). One can speculate on this trend for hours, but one thing remains constant: the need for flotation.
Just because vests these days are covered up by bright green flannels and logo T-shirts doesn’t mean they’ve gone by the wayside. The big wakes and progressive riding of the contemporary era make the life jacket more important than ever before. The bigger we go, the harder we fall.
“So I cut in for the backside 540, grab the board and the next thing I realize is I am upside down in the water looking up at my board and a distant light at the top of the water.” Chad Sharpe tells the U.S. Coast Guard. “Not such a bad thing, just swim up and wait for the boat to get back, right? That’s what I thought until I tried to swim up and my whole body was not working at all, it’s just fuzzy and tingling but not moving. Panic time.”
The words “panic time” send chills down my spine. As wakeboarders, we’ve all been upside down in the water, but unable to move? In a stroke of faith Chad was able to regain control of his body and get to the surface in time. Since that lapse of judgement, Chad has been one of the loudest voices in the industry advocating for for U.S. Coast Guard Approved life vests. Chad, we salute you.
Since the 90s we have crafted company-wide policies advocating for CGA floatation. For example, we have a policy that our employees and friends must wear a U.S. Coast Guard Approved vest behind our boat because we are that passionate about doing the right thing. Our sales team is educated thoroughly on the matter and encourages consumers to make smart, safe purchases regarding wake vests. We even created a CGA filter in our life vest section to avoid confusion. We also ensure that every one of our employees has access to a CGA vest if they need it. This has always been our stance and it will always be our stance.
It is our duty as industry professionals to encourage safety and responsibility. We will never intentionally spotlight, highlight, or promote a style of riding that disregards the most sacred gift of all: life.
Seriously, always wear a life vest.