Racing in PFDs

on Jan 16 in Clothing, PFD, Think, Training by

Like it or not, PFDs are here to stay in ocean racing. There are many arguments for and against wearing them, particularly here in Australia. However, our paddling buddies in South Africa have worn them for years, as do many European countries. The purpose of this article isn’t to discuss the pros and cons of PFDs and their application to ocean paddling, rather, provide some guidance on ensuring you get the most from your equipment while staying safe and healthy during your paddling sessions.

The first, and probably most important thing to consider when purchasing a new PFD is comfort. It’s simple, if your choice of PFD isn’t comfortable, you are not going to wear it, so spend some time trying on as many jackets as possible, and even better, try paddle in some. When we designed our PFD, in conjunction with Hiko, comfort was a huge priority. We believe we have achieved that with huge cutaways around the shoulders and neck enabling full rotation without restriction. Our PFDs are adjustable both at the shoulders and sides, ensuring you can get a very good, custom fit. These features should be high on your list when looking for a new PFD. Once you have made your choice, it’s important to train in your PFD as much as possible, only then will you become accustomed to the different heat stress your body will be under, as well as adjusting your clothing requirements accordingly. All PFDs, no matter the claims of the manufacturer, will raise your body temperature. With this is mind, you need to consider your fluid intake, particularly in hot climates like we have here in Australia. If, for example, you normally consume 800mls of fluid during a 90 minute session, it is worth playing with an increase to perhaps 1 liter or more to account for that increase in body heat. This can be assessed and adjusted during training in the weeks and months coming up to a big race. With the increase in body temperature, the requirement for clothing is reduced. If it’s the type of day where you might normally just wear a long sleeve paddling top on its own, when wearing a PFD, you may choose a short sleeve instead, to help keep your temperature down. We’re fortunate enough to live in a country with a fantastic climate for the most part, but with that comes extra considerations, such as heat exposure and hydration. With both of those in mind, the best way to get used to racing in a PFD is to train in a PFD. You hear many coaches preach that you should train how you want to race. If you want to be the best, you need to train like the best, and that means hard. You can be assured that the best paddlers are always prepared, perfect preparation makes perfect. We all want a reward for the training hours we put in, and the last thing you want to do it train your heart out, then show up at a race and paddle in a PFD for the first time since the last race and cook yourself. By training with your PFD, and being prepared, you can avoid the pitfalls of over heating and dehydration as a result of the extra layers around your torso.

The important things to consider when racing in PFDs:
- Choose a PFD that is most comfortable for you
- Wear your PFD in training
- Know how wearing a PFD affects your hydration levels
- Choose your clothing considering the extra heat wearing a PFD will generate

Your ski is ready, paddle checked, drink bottles mixed and paddling gear packed, the hard work is done, now it’s time to race. Have a blast.

See you on the water,

Stew.