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Buoyancy aid

The meaning of «buoyancy aid»

Buoyancy aids are a specialist form of personal flotation device (PFD) used most commonly by kayakers, canoeists and dinghy sailors. They are designed as a flotation aid, rather than a life-saving device and have several key differences to other PFD's and lifejackets. Regardless of the specification of buoyancy aids, they do not provide (nor are they intended to) the same high level of protection as lifejackets.[citation needed]

Canoeing and kayaking buoyancy aids are designed with mobility in mind. A buoyancy aid that does not fit properly can restrict a paddler's (kayaker's) range of movement, which could cause them to tire or prevent them from paddling properly. They typically have front and back foam buoyancy, with none or very little around the sides to allow for better arm movements.

All canoeing and kayaking buoyancy aids are made with a foam core, instead of being inflatable like some life jackets. This removes the possibility of them bursting or not being activated in the case of an incapacitated paddler. The foam used is typically closed cell PVC (polyvinyl chloride), although some manufacturers are now starting to use less toxic and more recyclable materials. Older designs used vertically aligned ribs of foam all around the body, but more modern designs typically feature front and rear slabs of foam buoyancy, with the sides left clear to allow unrestricted rotation and arm movement. Most buoyancy aids are one of three basic designs:

All buoyancy aids include some form of strap for tightening the buoyancy aid, preventing it from coming off in the water. Many white water designs feature multiple straps on the shoulders and waist to ensure the buoyancy aid can not be swept off in fast water. They may also include pockets for storing equipment and a range of safety and rescue features. Some lower quality ones only offer a belt, and these are often poor fitting and may be designed for generic water sports rather than specifically canoeing/kayaking.

There is a large variety of designs to fit every figure and purpose. It is important to have a buoyancy aid that fits comfortably, allowing freedom of movement. It is also important that it is suitable for the chosen discipline and the grade of water being paddled. Each discipline has different requirements and although one buoyancy aid can be used for multiple disciplines, there are several factors to consider which type to choose.

These are designed with high maneuverability as a key feature, often at the expense of buoyancy. Minimalistic designs which tend to hug the body tightly and are well cut around the arms aim to allow the wearer complete freedom of motion (something important to both Slalom and Polo paddlers as well as playboaters). These vests may not be fully suitable for other purposes, such as whitewater paddling where additional buoyancy is required due to the higher flow of water. Canoe polo rules specify that the buoyancy aids must have protective buoyancy at the sides of the garment, resulting in a garment that has more overall coverage

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