In the following article, I am going to present different models of impact vest, which will hopefully guide you to choose the right product. I personally use theNP Rise Impact Vest
and have only positive things to say about it, but there are for sure many other alternatives
Gonzalo Costa Hoevel (ARG3) crashing full speed in tarifa
Protect your rib cage with an impact vest
Foil windsurfing is not a dangerous sport, however wearing adequate protective gear may prevent you from nasty injuries. While wearing a helmet has become more and more common to protect the head, investing in an impact vest has not been a priority for windsurfers yet. That may be the reason why the vests are often marketed as “kiteboarding vest”, however they also work perfectly for windsurfing as well. We highly recommend to protect your ribs and organs with an impact vest when foil windsurfing, as apart from your head, most of the important organs in your body are contained behind your rib cage.
Falling while foil windsurfing
You will experience many falls when making your first steps on a windfoil, Most of them will happen at low speed and without consequences. However, you may experience more painful catapults landing on the board, the rig or worst case on the foil. When getting more confidence, there will be fewer but harder crashes due to the increased speed. This may cause serious injuries.
The positive sides of an impact vest: flotation and warmth
An impact vest will indeed protect your chest and offer a safer ride. Another positive aspect is the fact that the impact vest will also provide some more flotation and warmth. Although almost no impact vest are approved as buoyancy aids, simply because don't have enough flotation to qualify, they offer an undeniable extra flotation. Most vests are made in neoprene, which will also help you to keep you warm. These are valuable features in case of trouble in the water.
Fred Hope crashing hard during Slingshot's photoshoot
Safety first, fashion second
Impact vests can of course be used for regular windsurfing as well, or for other watersports, like for example kitesurfing or wakeboarding. And when it comes to the look and feel, we are far from the orange safety vests from the 80’s. Most brands offer now very nice designs with improved comfort and movements. Some models have even been developed specially for ladies.
In the following article, we are going to present different models of impact vest, which will hopefully guide you to choose the right impact. Here are the 4 key features you should look for when choosing an impact vest:
1- Waist harnessesare perfect for windfoiling, as there is little pressure in the sail, and no need for a seat harness. Therefore you should look for a vest, which is compatible with a waist harness.
2- Many people claim that the biggest drawback of an impact vest is the restrictive movement. This is still the case, even if most brands have now developed vests that are thin and offer more flexibility than before. Flexibility is therefore a key feature.
3- Durability: You will most probably change your impact vest every year, and you will be therefore looking for a vest of high quality, which will tackle hard use on the water and long Winters in the garage.
4- Weight: You will of course prefer an impact vest which gives you a light feeling. Weight of the vest is therefore important for optimal comfort.
The best impact vest for windfoiling :
Many brands offer quality impact vests. I personally use the NP Rise Impact Vest, and that’s the reason why I am able to recommend that one. The other 6 vests have not been tested by Windfoil Zone, but are relevant alternatives of major brands.
This vest has a front-zip for easy entry. It is well padded with ultra-soft foam for added comfort, and has an anatomical fit for comfort and freedom of movement . The great advantage of the vest is that the upper part is full with impact reinforcement, while the lower part is only a thin neoprene part, which will allow you to wear a waist harness (or a sit harness)
It also provides a little extra floatation (though not on the level of a life vest for sure). It helps me feel more secure to have impact vests in the rough waters and it adds a bit of warmth. And as an extra feature, it gives you a slim bodybuilder body !
This vest exists in two different colors, and you can use with a side-zipper (as mine) or a front zipper. I chose the Large model and it fits me well even if I often use medium for t-shiirts for example. I would recommend to choose one size larger that you normally would with normal clothes, so you can fit a wetsuit under as well.
You can see on the pictures under how it fit my body (1,85 m, 76 Kg):
2- DaKine Surface Vest
This vest gives is a very good high impact protection. A lot of cushioning but very comfortable and just the right amount of flotation. It is waist and seat harness compatible. It will protect you from impact, while providing flexibility and freedom to ride.
Here is a interesting video from Kiteboading.com explaining the features of this vest:
3cm closed cell foam
Waist and seat harness compatible
Super stretch design for freedom of movement
Zippered front for easy on/off
3- Mystic Kitesurf Block Front-Zip Impact Vest 2017 - Teal
The Mystic Block Front Zip Impact vest is very flexible, easy entry and light weight giving you the protection during crashes but without sacrificing your manoeuvrability. It has thicker padding than the Star vest offering increased protection and buoyancy.
Light and flexible neoprene. The liner is cross weaved for maximum durabilty.
Harness fit: the area around the waist is only neoprene without padding. This allows your harness to fit tight against your body. Having only neoprene along the waist also makes it easier to put on and take off.
Harness position print - helps to maintain the harness in positio
YKK front zip - Gives easy entry and exi
Anatomical Fit - The flexible foam padding is positioned around the chest, back and all around your rib cage for ultimate protection.
Extra thick segmented foam core - The foam sections are shaped to fit with the way your body flexes so there is no restriction of movement. Extra thick for added buoyancy and increased protection
Slim fit - The tight fit keeps your body compressed to minimize damage on impacts
Oversized arm holes - gives you maximum movement
4- Liquid Force Stacked Kiteboarding Vest
This vest is not only functional and stylish but also reversible giving you two color options for each vest.
It is however a really minimalistic vest: Just enough protection to take the hits, yet doesn’t inhibit any range of motion. Easy entry side zipper, and a tailored fit that will keep the vest in place during the hardest falls.
5- Mystic Majestic Ziperless Kite Impact Vest Black
Yet another great vest from Mystic having following features:
Non padded lower part for harness attachment
Non-slip harness position print
And finally, here is a good impact vest with perfect fit for the ladies:
6- Mystic Womens Star Kite/Windsurf Impact Vest
D30 is an intelligent shock foam, which takes the impact of crashes. In standard conditions, the molecules flow freely allowing the material to remain soft and flexible, but on impact they lock together to absorb impact energy and reduce the force transmitted.
D3O shock foam on chest/upper back and side parts
Soft touch neoprene (30%)
Fine PK front-zip
Non-slip panel for harness
Special enforced stitching
For those who would prefer a real flotation vest with approved buoyancy aid, we would recommend the Neilpryde one, which is meant to wear over a harness:
7- NP Surf High Hook Flotation Vest
Super-soft buoyancy foam
Reflective piping and panels
Hydropouch attachment points
Side zipper with adjustable buckles
Mesh drainage panels
Large stretch mesh pocket
Oversized arm holes
Harness hook hole
Share with us your experiences (good or bad) with impact vests suitable for windfoiling!