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In the kayaking world, lifejackets or life preservers are known as PFDs. PFD stands for personal flotation device. Similar to the requirement to wear seatbelts in automobiles, no small controversy surrounds pfd usage on our state and national waterways. Paddlers of all types have fought the necessity to wear PFDs on these bodies of water while local and even federal authorities maintain the legality of such a demand.
Whatever side of the debate you shake out on, one thing can’t be denied; PFDs do indeed save lives. While I can understand the argument that they are not needed in certain situations, it is difficult to advocate that officially. If I had to boil it down, there are some situations where they absolutely must be worn without question.
Of course, every child must wear a pfd at all times while kayaking. PFDs must be worn whenever a paddler is whitewater kayaking, even on Class I and Class II rivers. PFDs must also be worn in any open water situation, especially wear motorized boat traffic is a given.
Here are a few concluding comments on this whole PFD discussion. Remember, that wearing a PFD says nothing about your ability to swim. All of the swimming ability in the world won’t help in the event that you are knocked unconscious by a paddle or a collision through a collision with another boat. Also, be aware that PFD usage is the law on many bodies of water including waterways, state and national parks, as well as ponds and lakes in certain locales.
Be safe. Wear your PFD!