man wearing stand up paddle board life jacket

5 Best PFD for SUP : Stand Up Paddle Board Life Jackets

​Stand Up Paddleboard PFDs

Stand Up Paddleboards are ​a lot of fun, but you need to remember to be safe on the water.  Did you know there are actually quite a few regulations on SUPs?

​These regulations vary depending on where you live, but in the USA, the regulations also vary depending on where and how you're using your paddle board.

For example, the paddle boards operated outside of surfing, swimming, or bathing areas are considered "vessels" under US Coast Guard regulations.

​Which PFDs are best for Stand Up Paddle Board​ing?

​Since the USCG considers a SUP a "vessel" in a lot of areas that paddlers like to travel, like open water, rivers, and lakes, that means that you need to have one life jacket, or PFD, per occupant.

​Now, the rules vary a little state by state, so be sure to check with your specific state to see the regulations you need to follow.

Regardless of the rules, it just makes basic safety sense to follow best practices and use a life jacket when you are out on your SUP.

We have compiled this list of personal flotation devices we like the best when where out on our boards.  They tend to be modern with a low profile so they don't encumber your paddle strokes, and often very similar or the same ones used for paddling in kayaks.

red life jacket


  • ​Six panel design for ease of movement
  • ​US Coast Guard Type III
  • ​Low Profile
  • Weight: 1.85 pounds
  • ​Padded shoulders & reflective strips for low-light visibilty

​The NRS Vapor PFD is a great choice for a life vest.  It looks good and it doesn't ride up like traditional life jackets.

​While this PFD is looks good, it's designed more for function than for fashion.  The 400 denier nylon on the outside is for durability and toughness.  While the inside of the vest is covered in a soft and stretchy fabric for next-to-skin comfort.

​The Vapor can handle nearly every body type with adjustable side straps and shoulder straps ensuring you can get a custom fit that's the most comfortable for you.

​The NRS Vapor PFD delivers the comfort and performance of a high end life jacket, without the high-end price.

Pros of this PFD

  • ​​Large arm holes and fits well so you can paddle for hours without discomfort
  • ​Very comfortable soft foam construction
  • ​Durable 400 denier nylon can handle years of use and abuse

Cons of this option

  • ​You might have excess strap after tightening down, may be worth trimming the extra strap length
ninja life jacket


  • ​Low Profile
  • ​US Coast Guard Type III
  • ​Side-entry with six adjustment points for a customizable fit
  • Weight: 2.15 lbs.
  • ​4 - Side adjustments
  • 2 - Shoulder adjustments

​Another NRS product, the NRS ​Ninja PFD is designed with athletic performance in mind which makes it great for SUPing.

​The flotation material is concentrated in the center of the torso to give the paddler unbeatable range of motion.  The Ninja also has the lowest profile of any PFD currently on the market.

It has ​a little pocket in front that is great for storing small things like chapstick, sunscreen, money, etc.​  And there is also a coomfy pocket where you can warm your hands if they get cold.

​The Ninja is a side entry PFD with six adjus​tment points so you can get a custom fit.  Unlike other PFDs, the Ninja has "strap garages" where you can store the excess length of strap webbing, after you've tightened it down to your best fit.

Pros of this PFD

  • ​Clamshell pocket for internal organization
  • ​So compact and comfortable you forget you're wearing it

Cons of this option

  • ​A little pricey
ONYX life jacket


  • ​SOLAS grade reflective material for visibility
  • ​US Coast Guard Type III
  • ​vented channels to  keep you cool
  • ​3 different sizes
  • ​Lightweight and comfortable

​​The Onyx PFD is a great quality and great priced option for paddlers.  We really like how the floation parts are up higher on the torso with mess for the lower part closer to your butt. ​The bubble foam on the back is nice because it provides a bit of added comfort.

​The front pocket has room for storage and that's also where the safety whistle, that is included with the PFD, is stored.

​This Coast Guard approved life jacket has safety reflective stripes on the front and the rear.

​The two neoprene padded shoulder straps and two side straps ensure that you'll be able to adjust this to the most comfort size for your torso.  

Combined with sculpted flexible foam design that conforms to your body and stays in place when paddling, ​make the Onyx is a comfortable, reasonably priced option.

Pros of this PFD

  • ​So comfortable you'll forget you're wearing it.
  • ​Large arm holes and slim front and side padding that do not interfere while paddling
  • ​Safety whistle included

Cons of this option

  • ​Polyester fabric, so keep out of sunlight for storage
cascade life jacket


  • ​Dual-entry ​pouch style zippered front cargo pocket
  • ​US Coast Guard Type III
  • ​All around life jacket
  • Weight: 2.2 Pounds
  • ​Front and rear reflectors for low light visibility

​The ​MTI Cascade is a super comfy life jacket that is not only good for SUP but also just about any other water activities where you need a PFD.

​This over the head entry life jacket has padded and adjustable straps to get that snug but comfortable fit you need for hours of irritation free use.

The comfort extends to the fleece-lined hand-warming tunnel, which is great in cold conditions or warming your hands when fishing and the large chest pocket keeps whatever gear you need to bring with you.

​We like the 3D polyester mesh liner for letting circulation in and the really solid center front strap which we kept finding uses for.

The MTI Cascade is one of our favorite options because of it's overall build quality and comfort we end up using it for all of our water activities, not just paddleboarding.

Pros of this PFD

  • ​Low profile
  • ​Tethered whistle included
  • ​Great for all manner of watersport uses

Cons of this option

  • N​ot the cheapest option
stohlquist pfd


  • ​Neoprene padded waistband
  • ​Mess back for breath ability
  • ​Cinch strap harness ​that prevent ride-up
  • ​2 large pockets on each side
  • ​US Coast Guard Type III

​The Stohlquist EBB Life Jacket ​is a proven PFD with a design that has been around for several years.  If it ain't broke, don't fix it.

This is one of the best life jacket to prevent the problem of the jacket slowly riding up on you as you paddle by building two straps across the chest to prevent movement of the jacket.

The mess back of the jacket means that the water and sweat quickly evaporates keeping you comfortable for hours of paddling. The dual large front pockets offer plenty of storage space.

With 6 adjustable straps, 2 for your shoulders and 4 side straps, you can be assured of a snug and comfortable fit.

Pros of this PFD

  • ​A wide variety of adjustment options
  • ​Virtually unrestricted movement for paddling

Final Thoughts

​You need to think of Safety First.  And if you are in certain areas, it might be the law that you need to wear a life jacket or personal floatation device while you SUP.

​​The great news is that the options we listed here are designed to keep you safe and afloat if you become detached from your paddleboard, but they are also created to give you maximum range of movement and breathability so that you are both comfortable and safe on the water.