BUOYANCY AID/LIFE JACKET/IMPACT VEST?
Whether you require a buoyancy aid, life jacket or an impact vest will depend on the type of watersports activity you take part in. A buoyancy aid or an impact vest are mainly used for surface watersports including water skiing, wake boarding, kite surfing, dinghy sailing, kayaking and jet skiing. They are generally less bulky and are much easier to swim in than a life jacket. They are designed to allow the user to continually enter and exit the water. Life Jackets have more buoyancy on the front chest and back of the neck to make sure the wearer, if rendered unconscious, will float face up in the water.
An Impact Vest is perfect for protecting you when you're out on the water going at speed. Worn by Wakeboarders, Waterskiers, Jet Skiers, Kite Boaders, etc., the foam in the vest means that the jacket will absorb the impact when you hit the water and stay afloat when in it, but it is not a life jacket.
HOW MUCH BUOYANCY DO I NEED?
Buoyancy is measured in Newtons (N). A standard CE-marked gas lifejacket must have a minimum of 150 Newtons of buoyancy. This will be suitable for anyone weighing more than 40kg with a chest size between 55cm and 140 cm which should include most adults and some children.
If you are likely to be wearing heavy equipment or engaging in offshore and ocean sailing, you may want to consider a lifejacket with 275 Newtons of buoyancy, to provide additional support in the water.
Buoyancy aids and Impact Vests provide additional floatation when in the water, yet they will not keep a person upright if unconscious. 50N buoyancy is standard for adults and juniors who are competent swimmers whereas 100N is standard for children's models.