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A paddle boarding life jacket is already compulsory in Switzerland, but I don’t know yet if it will be the same in other countries.

Nevertheless, let me explain in this article when and why a life jacket for paddle boarding makes sense. Later I will show you what you should look for when choosing a paddle boarding life jacket, present good models and compare them with each other.

Who Should Wear a Life Jacket?

Light paddle boarders like children and teenagers who are out on their own should always wear a life jacket. This also applies to adults. Even experienced swimmers reach their limits at some point when swimming long distances.

In the swimming pool, the edge is rarely more than 10 meters (33′) away. On a paddle boarding tour, on the other hand, it is often hundreds of meters to the shore. With waves and currents making it difficult to move forward, it quickly becomes exhausting. Especially when the water is cool, this should not be underestimated.

I also advise adult paddle boarders to always wear a life jacket, especially if they are traveling alone! With the right life jacket hardly any freedom of movement is lost and yet it can save lives in an emergency. It keeps you afloat until help arrives. Meanwhile, there are even rescue paddle boards for this purpose.

What Should I Look For in a Life Jacket?

There are no special paddle boarding vests. However, the selection of life jackets for canoeists, rowers, sailors, and kite surfers is huge. These models are of course just as suitable for the requirements of paddle boarding.

With the help of the following criteria, you can find a suitable life jacket.

  • Buoyancy: From 100 Newton buoyancy, one speaks of life jackets. If the life jacket is used as a rescue device, 100 N should be the minimum. As a pure buoyancy aid, like in paddle boarding, you can stick to the rule of thumb “8 Newton per 10 kilogram (22 lbs) body weight”. Below I have included a table with the values.
  • Cut: The vest should offer enough freedom of movement. The area around the arms and shoulders is especially important.
  • Few loops: cords and straps hanging around really bother me personally when paddling. Ideally, the cords are all adjustable or run on the inside.
  • Weight: Too much weight is a bother when paddling. In my opinion, the vests should weigh no more than 1 to 1.5 kilograms (2-3 lbs).
  • Extras: Some models offer side pockets.

Best Life Vests for adult Paddle Boarders

AngebotBestseller No. 1
O'Neill Men's Superlite USCG Life Vest,Pacific/Smoke/Black:White,L
  • USCG Approved Personal Flotation Device (Type III);...
  • Designed to fit snug for your safety. Minimal bulk...
  • Anatomically cut lightweight polyethylene foam...
  • Heavy-duty 1.5 inch wide webbing belts with quick...
Bestseller No. 2
O'Neill Men's Reactor USCG Life Vest, Black/Black/Black,X-Large
  • USCG Approved Personal Flotation Device; Perfect for...
  • Segmented Foam Core And Anatomical Flex Points Allow...
  • Quick Release Safety Buckles And Heavy Duty Front...
  • Minimal Bulk Design Allows Full Mobility, While...
AngebotBestseller No. 3
ONYX General Purpose Boating Life Jacket Universal, Blue
  • Adjustable belts and chest strap to keep vest from...
  • Lightweight durable flotation foam
  • Large armholes for comfort
  • Open-sided styling
AngebotBestseller No. 4
Bestseller No. 5
Stohlquist Fit Adult PFD Life Vest | Pack of 4 | Coast Guard Approved, Adjustable Size, Unisex,...
  • FEEL THE MOVEMENT - High mobility, non-restrictive cut....
  • INNOVATION MEANS BETTER - All foam corners are rounded...
  • COAST GUARD APPROVED - Safety is our number one concern...
  • ALL THE FLOAT NONE OF THE BULK - Four Adult Universal...
Bestseller No. 6
BLUESTORM Gear Cirrus26 Inflatable PFD Life Jackets (Hi-Vis Green) for Adults | US Coast Guard...
  • LIGHTWEIGHT, COOL and COMFORTABLE design offers all-day...
  • SLIMLINE CHASSIS DESIGN places the adjustable 1”...

Best Life Vests for Young Paddle Boarders

Bestseller No. 1
STEARNS Child Classic Series Life Vest, Blue, Weight- 30-50 Lbs
  • US Coast Guard-approved child life vest
  • Specially fitted for children weighing 30 to 50 pounds
  • Durable nylon shell with PE flotation foam
  • Three adjustable buckles, open sides, and a leg strap...
Bestseller No. 2
Oceans 7 New & Improved US Coast Guard Approved, Child Life Jacket, Flex-Form Chest, Open-Sided...
  • US Coast Guard-approved: Personal flotation device...
  • USCG-approved sizing: Child-size PFD for use with...
  • Open-side design: PFD has 3 adjustable straps and an...
  • Universal use: Durable Nylon construction and thick EPE...
AngebotBestseller No. 3
Speedo unisex-child Swim Flotation Classic Life Vest Begin to Swim UPF 50,Berry/Grape,Medium
  • Swim Level 2: Water Confidence - These products provide...
  • UV50 plus Block the Burn protection from the sun's...
  • Soft, durable neoprene construction for warmth and...
  • Full front zipper for easy on and off along with a...

Based on the rule of thumb of 8 Newtons per 10 kilograms (22 lbs) of weight, you can estimate the required buoyancy of your paddle boarding life jacket. For white water rafting or very rough water, you need a model that offers more buoyancy.

Body Weight in KilogramsBody Weight in lbsBuoyancy in Newton
Table: Recommended Buoyancy Depending on Body Weight

Practical Test After the Order

On your first trip with your new life jacket, you should test it extensively. Jump into the water a few times, climb back on the board and familiarize yourself with the wet life jacket. If you ever get into trouble, you won’t fall into panic.

Safety Thanks to Leash?

Paddle boarding leashes also ensure safety. The leash is a tether that is attached to your ankle at one end and to the paddle board at the other end. This way, if you fall into the water, your board won’t float away.

On lakes, canals and calm waters, I strongly recommend a leash. The leash is now standard equipment for paddle boarders. Caution is advised on running waters, whitewater rides, and waters with lots of obstacles and underwater plants.

Leashes are coiled and do not fully expand until they fall (these are called “coiled leashes”), but there is still a small risk of getting caught in something. However, it is important to remember that a leash is no substitute for a life jacket.


Do I need a life jacket for paddle boarding?

A life jacket is generally recommended for water sports. In Switzerland, a life jacket is mandatory for paddle boarding. Learn more about the best life jackets for paddle boarding here. An alternative are the products from Restube such as the Restube Classic.
Learn more about life vests for paddle boarding.

Which life jacket is the best for adults?

Life jackets can save lives in an emergency – even when paddle boarding. That’s why it’s essential to look for good quality when buying one. Learn more about the best life jackets here. An alternative are the products from Restube such as the Restube Classic. Learn more about life vests for paddle boarding.

Which life jacket is the best for children?

Children and teenagers who travel alone should always wear a life jacket. It is essential to pay attention to good quality. Learn more about the best life jackets for children and adults here. Learn more about life vests for paddle boarding.

What is the alternative to life jackets?

A great alternative to life jackets are the products from Restube. For example, there is the Restube Classic for activities in the water, Restube Sports as a more robust version and Restube Lifeguard for professional use. Learn more about life vests for paddle boarding.

How hard is paddle boarding?

On calm lakes and rivers, you will quickly have your first successes on a paddle board. Nevertheless, as a beginner, you fall into the water from time to time. In principle, this is not a problem, but the shore can be far away and it is difficult to fight against a current.

Therefore, paddle boarding life jackets are a good safeguard not only for children, but also for adults! As an alternative, you can use, for example, the Restube Classic. Learn more about life vests for paddle boarding.

Hi, my name is Max. In 2016, on my first SUP trip, I was still a bit shaky on the SUP board. But quickly the ambition grabbed me and my passion for SUP was ignited. That’s why I founded stand-up-paddling.org the same year. Our mission is to help beginners discover this sport and bring more transparency into the market with our in-depth product reviews.

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Hi Max,

I have a question about the self-releasing life jackets. If I fall off the board while paddle boarding times, which can happen and then is not an emergency, does it trigger the life jacket immediately?!

That could be expensive if I would fall more often or in the summer to cool down briefly from the board into the water. Then a solid vest would probably be better, but it wears more. Since I am in my 70s, the fainting aspect is not unimportant to me. So what to do, do you have any tips?

Thank you in advance!


Hello Volker,

First of all congratulations that you are interested in more safety on the water. This point is unfortunately often, not only by the younger paddle board faction, criminally neglected.

That’s right, an automatic vest of course does not know if there is really an emergency. The mechanism of salt tablet and CO² cartridge thus triggers with each unintentional fall into the water. But it scores with maximum safety and wearing comfort.

From experience I can tell you that you also get used to the thicker solid life jackets. Make sure the fit isn’t too tight and that you have large armholes so you have good freedom of movement…then it’s not half bad and you’re (faint) safe on the road. I use one myself and get along well with it.

Unfortunately here is no golden way out of the dilemma between recurring costs and slightly less wearing comfort. At least if fainting safety is important to you!

Many greetings,


That’s what I call a super support, in terms of speed of response and content expertise! In a rating of 10 points I would give a 10+! Thank you very much!

I am well aware of the dilemma. There I could hold it with the expression of a paddle board acquaintance, who once said: “Whatever you decide, the rest is fate” But I would like to minimize that quite gladly. In this respect, thank you for the tips.



Hey Volker,

???? sure…that’s how it should be! That makes me happy of course, thanks for the compliment.
Wish you a lucky hand in your decision and lots of beautiful and safe hours on the water!

Many greetings,