Inflatable PFDs – Practice Deployment Might Just Save Your Life

You may have read in a past Paddle Monster (Mullet) article about safety and knowing your paddle ohana – that something as simple as knowing how to or having used your PFD in a non-emergency situation might just save your life. As a result, I polled my local paddle community – the 954 crew here in Fort Lauderdale – about who has deployed their PFD and felt comfortable or understood how to use it. Here’s what I learned, and a short video of our testing last fall.

The Situation

Remarkably, what we found was amazing – including a veteran 15-year paddler who had never deployed a PFD, to severely corroded hardware – as a result, we decided to put together a practice day, here’s what we found. Watch the hilarious video we created to memorialize this serious, but fun testing session.

The Practice

We decided on a land practice, where we could take our time, take turns, and each person learn from the person before. The land practice was more than adequate, as a matter of fact, we had planned on a land and water deployment test but in the end, felt educated and well informed after a simple land deployment, and then “walking into the water” to get the feel of the PFD and its flotation capabilities

The Findings

  • Without exception, everyone was apprehensive to “pull the cord” until someone did so for the first time,
  • No one had ever deployed their inflatable,
  • No one had any idea what to expect,
  • A few people didn’t realize that they needed to add a CO2 canister to make their PFD usable,
  • There were different PFD types and therefore use was different than expected,
  • Due to saltwater neglect – and I would imagine this could affect freshwater as well – almost everyone’s CO2 cartridge was severe corrosion and required WD-40 and plyers to remove the cartridges,
  • The corroded cartridges all deployed as expected with no issues, but I’m not sure that this would always be the case,
  • Some people had difficulty deploying their PFD due to lack of experience on the amount of force with which to pull the inflate cord,
  • Without exception, every participant was grateful for the experience and felt more practiced as a result of the exercise.

In Summary

Our exercise was a success.  Members of The 954 Paddle Community feel more prepared, have experience and as a result, are more likely to get through a water risk situation to a fully deployed and usable PFD as a result of this practice. There is no safety silver bullet, but our exercise proved that like everything in paddling, practice makes perfect. As paddlers, we spend an exceptional amount of time on the water, and a bit of practice to ensure that our ohana’s odds of surviving an actual water emergency increase, is a very small price to pay.

Take a look at our video and tell us what you think.  You will learn something for sure.

One last thing, be motivated and practice with your paddle ohana, send us pictures and we’ll post a follow-up article with everyone’s pictures and videos.  Join the Paddle Monster PFD Safety challenge today! #keepallpaddlerssafe