Design a Better PFD and Win $10,000

Friday, 26 September 2014

Think you can design a better PFD than the one you currently wear in your canoe or kayak? If so, you could win up to $10,000 in a contest organized by the BoatUS Foundation.

Entries will be judged on the following criteria:

  • Wearability: How comfortable is the life jacket?
  • Reliability: Does it work every time? Are there any chances for potential failures?
  • Cost: What is the expected pricing? Is it affordable for the average boater?
  • Innovation: How creative or original is the solution? Are any new technologies or materials being utilized?

If you got a really wacky idea you might be in luck as they are specifically looking for unconventional designs. Your entry doesn’t even need to be fully finished; you can submit a theoretical design or prototype.

I’ve decided to enter this new design of mine (that I stole online) and see if it can slip past the judges. These were from Germany in 1925 and made out of tire inner tubes for your utmost comfort and functionality.

Old innter tube lifejacket from 1925

The contest is open to anybody so both professional and amateurs can enter. You have until April 15 to get your design in and all the details can be found on the contest website.


In other nerdy PFD news, it looks like the US Coast Guard will finally be updating the way that they label PFD’s as it’s currently way too confusing for the general public to understand.

Right now manufactures are required to label PFDs as Type I, II, III, IV or V but does anybody actually know that that means? I certainly didn’t so I had to look it up to find out. Here is what I found: Types I, II, and III refer to wearable PFDs (lifejackets) in decreasing order of performance; Type IV refers to throwable PFDs; and Type V refers to any PFD that meets the performance standards of all the types. Clear as mud?

The plan is to remove the codes from future Coast Guard regulations so they can focus on safety information. The other goal of this overhaul is to bring regulations more in line with PFD requirements in Canada.

So what does this mean to the paddling community? Eventually there will be simpler language on regulations and safety material when describing PFD use. Right now the Coast Guard is working on new wording and symbols but there is no word on when those are going to be unveiled.

More info:

David Johnston

David Johnston

David Johnston has been introducing people to the sport of sea kayaking for the past 15 years. He is a senior instructor trainer with Paddle Canada and teaches for several paddling schools in Ontario, Canada. Full Bio.

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