Low-Profile PFD Does Not Restrict Motion
First of all right out of the gate I have to say that this PFD is NOT US Coast Guard approved. It does, however carry a number of international certifications. Use at your own discretion.
After this summer’s discussion on PFDs, following so many deaths involving sups, I have been rethinking my own personal safety strategy. There are times when I don’t want to have to depend on pulling a rip cord – like downwinding on the Columbia River or in when I am teaching. So my curiosity surrounding the lower profile PFDs from Mocke and Vaikobi was piqued. I just received the later, so I will write a review on it as soon as I have a chance to put it through its paces.
The Mocke PFD comes from South African surf ski legend Dawid Mocke, who was looking to design a comfortable, lighter weight, less constricting PDF to wear primarily in a sitting position – in surf ski. It would work equally as well in an outrigger. I tested mine on a standup.
You’ll notice its different appearance immediately. It is lightweight and covered in orange mesh to facilitate airflow. (For the fashion conscious, blaze orange is the only color available in this exact design. A river-specific version is available in black.) It has one long pocket for a hydration bladder on the back and a large, bellowed pocket on the front for your phone, gels, or even another water bottle.
On the day I tested mine, I used a full 2-liter bladder and had my phone in the front pocket. The bladder was virtually unnoticeable on my back. And the phone, in a soft dry case, fit fine in the front pocket. I was a little leery of trusting my phone to the whims of a velcro closure on that front pocket – worried that the phone might push its way out but the closure held fast and firm through several intentional falls and re-mounts.
Unlike the Vaikobi, the Mocke PFD slips on overhead. The full water bladder did not hinder this process. It adjusts and tightens just like any other Type II PFD. I immediately noticed that although the PFD was snug, it did not feel as bulky or restrictive as a “regular” kayaking pfd. That’s due in large part to the placement of the foam, which is inside the mesh in sections. It was comfortable.
At first, I had my PFD uber-tight. As I started my interval session, I realized I needed to loosen it up some. I actually found that the compression provided by the PFD and the way it conforms to the body was supportive of my core muscles, which, after just recovering from a torn intercostal, I really appreciated.
Throughout my interval session in the hot North Carolina summer swelter, I never felt like I was overheating or that the PFD was in any way restrictive or suffocating. I did notice toward the end of my session that some of the fabric near the arm pit, where the seam is thickest was starting to chafe on one side. I wondered about the viability of that over the course of a race like Chattajack. Some readjustment of the straps seemed to alleviate the chafing but then I was hyper aware of that part of the PFD and it was distracting. I did wonder if perhaps one size small would be better. Jury is out on that one.
One nice touch with the Mocke PFD is the shoulder hose retainer straps for the hydration tube – they are covered in reflective fabric, which is a great plus for visibility. The hydration bladder functioned perfectly. The bladder does not come with the PFD but any third party bladder will do.
Self-rescue with the Mocke was a breeze. I experienced absolutely no problems getting back on the board with the bladder nearly full and the front pocket loaded. Hinderance of self-rescue is one main reason I have been adverse to wearing a “full sized” PFD. In fact, on a recent downwinder in the Columbia River Gorge, a standard kayaking PFD made by a popular manufacturer kept me from getting back on the board. I was very happy to discover that the Mocke option does not prevent quick remounting.
The Mocke PFD is available directly from the company via its website – I tried to find find a US source for it but could not. International shipping was approximately $35 so, when added to the $150 price tag, this is a pretty expensive option. But it is comfortable and buoyant, appropriate for all levels of paddling and it solves the problem of how to stay hydrated while wearing a full size PFD.
Next week, we will review the Vaikobi Ocean Racing PFD.
(Editor’s Note: TC Surfski in Michigan carries this PFD but does not have the full array of sizes in stock at the time of this review. Also, Southern Paddle Sports does carry the PFD but there is no online ordering option, it would appear, on the website.)