When you’re out on the water safety plays a big part. Wakeboarding is an action sport and by default it can be dangerous and you should definitely take the right precautions. You ever taken a toe side slap going 20 MPH on the water? Yeah, not a lot of fun. Boosting over the wake and throwing down? More fun. You get the point, and that’s why we’ve come up with a list the best wakeboarding life jackets in 2017.
When we first starting thinking about the best wakeboarding life jackets a couple of things came to mind. 1 they had flat out perform and 2 they had to be comfortable, you’re not going to wear a PFD that’s not comfortable. Right away there were some obvious choices that popped up O’Brien and O’Neill for starters and there were a couple relative new comers to the wakeboard PFD scene that made an appearance too, but more on them later.
Why a jacket or vest in the first place?
Now there’s an obvious benefit to wearing a life jacket or PFD, it can literally save your life but there an a few extra things that a good life vest can do too. Wakeboarding is fast and there can be some big wrecks too, a good life vest or impact vest can save you some broken ribs and help to protect your vital organs in the event of a big crash.
Wakeboarding life vests have seen big upgrades from the vests that you remember from your childhood. Today’s PFDs are comfortable and effective, so no more excuses not to wear one. Modern life jackets fit really well and allow you all the freedom of movement that you need when you’re behind the boat cutting hard to the wake.
Types of Wakeboarding Life Jackets
There are two main styles of jackets that hold down most of the market: Pull overs, and zip ups. Both have different styles and their own set of advantages and we’ll take a quick look below.
Pull Over Life Vest
Pull over vests are snug and fitted to your torso so there’s no extra straps dangling and no zippers to wear out. Some riders might find this type a little uncomfortable to get in and out of just due to how fitted they can be. If you’re looking for a vest just for yourself that will only be worn by you this a great choice because you can really dial in the fit and find the jacket or vest that’s perfect for you.
This is the entry system that you remember. These jackets and vests are super easy to get in and out of and can fit a wider range of people on the boat if you’re sharing (sharing is caring). If you’re looking to get a few just to have on the boat for this summer a zip or clip closure might be the best way to go.
Your life jacket should fit tight, like really tight. When you’re first trying it on it should almost be hard to breathe, any extra air in between you and your vest is what’s going to cause the damage from impact, you want your jacket to be like a second skin.
When you get in the water and get moving most, if not all, life jackets will stretch out and conform to your body, giving you a custom fit that will be comfortable. So measure your chest and shoulders and buy the right size.
Impact Vest vs Life Jacket – What’s the difference?
There’s another type of jacket that makes an appearance too, the impact vest. An impact vest is different in a couple different ways from a traditional life vest or jacket.
First off when we’re thinking about an impact vest vs life jacket, an impact vest will not be as buoyant as your typical vest so if you’re considering this type you should be a strong wakeboarder and swimmer already, these aren’t for anyone who wants to jump in. You should be comfortable treading water while the boat comes back to you, think of an impact vest like a thick wetsuit.
Best Wakeboarding Life Jackets 2017
Now that we’ve covered what to look for in a vest let’s get down to it and see which vest made the cut for our list of the best wakeboarding life jackets for 2017.
Best Wakeboarding Life Jackets – Men’s CGA
Ronix Parks Capella CGA – 2017
Ronix is a name we’re all familiar with in the wakeboarding world. Made using cylindrical construction using 2-way stretch neoprene, the Ronix Parks Capella jacket is a fully Coast Guard Approved life vest that provides great flotation.
The Capella features a front zip with 2 buckles so getting in and out is super simple and allows for a wider range of wearers. If you look carefully at the Capella you can see the addition of Ariaprene in the construction, this reduces the overall weight of the jacket and wicks moisture away.
Ronix Parks Capella Vest Highlights
- Cylindrical construction
- The original round vest
- X Technology
- Perforated ariaprene for all day comfort
- Two-way stretch neoprene
- Fits a standard (read: round) torso
- 2 buckles and 1 zip closure
- Coast Guard Approved
The addition of cylindrical construction means that the Parks Capella will fit better than almost any flat constructed life jacket out there. It conforms to your body’s natural curvature making it more comfortable, meaning you’ll be more likely to throw it on.
If you look at the back of the Parks Capella you’ll notice that Ronix has incorporated X-pattern stitching, this gives even more freedom of movement and added comfort to the jacket. This unique stitching allows the jacket to move with you because the jacket can move both vertically and horizontally.
What makes cylindrical construction so comfortable is that most of us aren’t flat on top (I am in shape, round is a shape) and the Capella was designed with us in mind. Once you put this jacket on you’ll be unlikely to go back to a flat constructed jacket ever again.
Best Wakeboarding Life Jackets – Women’s CGA
Ronix Limelight Women’s Capella 2.0 CGA 2017 Life Vest
If you’re into technical gear like we are then you know that there’s no such thing as a unisex piece of gear. Ladies, Ronix didn’t forget you. Introducing the Ronix Limelight Capella 2.0, a fully CGA vest that’s designed for women who get after it 90 feet behind the boat.
The Limelight Capella is Ronix’s premiere women’s vest and it got some major upgrades for 2017, so much so it was dubbed the 2.0. Major thought and effort was put into making the Limelight the ultimate women’s life vest.
While the women’s Capella 2.0 is built especially for women Ronix has used some of the great features that the men’s life vest has. Cylindrical construction makes this vest fit more naturally and provides all day comfort. Flex panels give you all the freedom you need when boosting over the wake and make the vest move with you.
Ronix Limelight Women’s Capella 2.0 CGA Life Jacket Features
- Custom tailored fitted CGA vest specifically built for female riders
- Fills more voids than ever before giving you even more protection
- Water resistant liner repels water and keeps you warmer
- Glide skin
- Two-way stretch neoprene
- Fits longer torso shapes
- 2 buckles and 1 zip closure
- Coast Guard Approved
Another comfort and performance feature that was added in 2017 are the extra wide arm holes for added mobility for handle passes. The last thing you need when riding is to be restricted with you movements.
The inner liner is water resistant so the vest takes on less water when you’re in the water and that also means you’ll stay warmer and the glide skin outer means this vest looks as good as it performs.
Best Wakeboard Life Jackets – Runner Up
Hyperlite’s new 2017 Special Agent vest comes straight from the team lineup. Fully CGA and ready to rock for this summer the Special Agent comes with more range of movement so you can shred longer while keeping comfortable.
Just like the Ronix above they’ve got Men’s and Women’s versions available so you can find the right vest for you.
The Special Agent vests are made with a unique 4-panel construction that allows for freedom of motion in every directions while keeping the weight down with dispersion of foam among the four panels giving you a thinner fitting vest.
Protect Ya Ribs!
One of the more painful injuries that you can get while wakeboarding is damaging your ribs. The right vests will take this into account and Hyperlite’s 2017 Special Agent is that right vest. Special panels along the side of the Hyperlite Special Agent are purposefully designed to protect your ribs from impact damage with segmented foam panels that move with you when you bend.
Flexibility in Every Direction
Hyperlite designed their new Special Agent to move with you regardless of which way you’re bending. Segmented foam in the front, sides and back of the vest give you freedom of movement in every direction.
Even the back panel has sections that allow for movement while still providing ample amounts of protection. The segments not only provide protection but it’s the space between them that sets the Special Agent apart by reducing the overall weight, giving you a CGA vest that’s lightweight too!
Hyperlite Special Agent Highlights
- Hyperlite Pro Team Gear
- USCG Approved Type III PFD
- Awesome range of motion in every direction
- Independent segmented rib panels for added impact protection
- 2 concealed 1.5″ straps
- Superior water shedding materials
Best Wakeboarding Life Jackets – Competition Vest
2017 Liquid Force Z-Cardigan Comp Life Vest
From Liquid Force for 2017 is their updated Cardigan comp vest. This styley impact vest comes in a couple different color options that are reversible and is all set to throw down in the park. Still one of the lightest impact vests available the Z-Cardigan uses 4XS stretch foam making it thin, flexible and super comfortable.
Cut for Riders
Liquid Force has cut their Z-Cardigan so it’s as comfortable and functional as it can be. Larger arm holes and a tapered waist ensure that the vest fits like a second skin and allows you all the room you need for rope transfers.
Super Easy On/Off
Liquid Force updated the Z-Cardigan for 2017 with a new zipper making it a snap to get the vest on and off. With the Z being a rider favorite year after year there really wasn’t much to improve upon. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!
Liquid Force Z Cardigan Comp Vest Highlights
- 4XS stretch foam for all day riding comfort
- Power flex Neoprene that moves with you while you’re riding
- Advanced 16-panel Flex Architecture design gives you protection where you need it
- A tapered waist and wider arm openings make the Z fit like it should
- Reversible design, you know because, why not look good!
Not Just for the Guys
Like any respectable gear slingers LF has a women’s model of the Z-Cardigan with all the same tech and style packed into an impact vest that’s cut for women.
Best Wakeboarding Life Jackets – Competition Vest Runner Up
2017 O’Neill Slasher Comp Vest
O’Neill’s new comp vest lineup just got lighter, stronger and now dry faster than they ever have before. With new performance driven technology the Slasher Comp Vest is worthy competitor for one of the best wakeboarding life jackets in 2017.
Nytrolite Foam Technology
O’Neill new vest are using their proprietary Nytrolite Foam Technology in their design. What is that? Simply put, Nitrolite is a low density polyethylene which is expanded using Nitrogen.
3x lighter than PVC foam and about 10% more buoyant means that in construction they can use less foam for each vest and it will still float the same. A closed cell foam structure that absorbs 15-20% less water translates into a lighter vest in the water and it’s going to dry faster too.
Designed for the Rider
The Slasher is designed for the rider who’s knows what they want in a comp vest. Segmented core foam and an anatomical flex design gives all the right moves in all the right places. O’Neill has also designed the arm holes on the Slasher so that they don’t rub, giving you sore spots when you’re in it all day.
- 100% UltraFlex DS
- Front Zip
- #10 YKK Zipper with Safety Tab
- Nytrolite Foam
- Segmented Foam Core
- Anatomical Flex Points
- Strategic Armhole Fit
Well there you have it! Some of the best wakeboarding life jackets for 2017. Remember it’s all about the fit, if it doesn’t fit you right then you’re not going to wear it, so find the vest that you’re going to wear. Grab one and hit the water!
We’ll see you out there!