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Patagonia’s surfing vest gives big wave riders peace of mind

Patagonia's Portable Surf Inflation Vest
Outdoor apparel company Patagonia has always sat on the cutting edge of innovation and environmental stewardship but now adds standards of safety to its burgeoning resume. The company’s research and development sector first presented a prototype of the Potable Self-Inflation Vest to big wave ambassadors back in 2013 and was greeted enthusiastically by its wearers. After years of extensive engineering, the PSI vest plans to finally release on the market this spring — but only to qualified buyers.

The most difficult challenge in presenting a commercial product which offers an assurance of safety involves the potential individual response of consumers. Amateur surfers who purchase and wear the vest might perceive a false sense of security and take on risks they might otherwise avoid, resulting in injury or death. Patagonia seeks to counter this challenge by requiring buyers to provide proof of big wave training certification, which is granted by the Big Wave Risk Assessment Group based out of Oahu, Hawaii.


Padded flotation vests already exist on the market (and have for several years), but Patagonia says its Personal Surf Insulation Vest exceeds all standards of technology and safety.

“The three primary aspects we were looking to incorporate into this vest include multiple pulls, having a dump valve, and a low profile version that we were able to use with many different types of wetsuits,” Patagonia explained in its promotional video.

After five years of development in The Forge, Patagonia finally perfected its product. The vest’s sleek design supports multiple rapid inflations and the ability for surfers to paddle and swim while inflated. Its adaptability makes for easy use under short johns, springs suits, and full suits — fulfilling intentions originally outlined by engineer Casey Shaw in the 2013 press release. Additionally, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office granted the company a patent on the PSI Vest in 2014. Patagonia now makes its life-saving technology available worldwide and allows other companies to purchase licensing.

Although the requirement for certification might dismay some buyers, Patagonia stands its ground with regard to safety — while offering $250 off the retail price to certified buyers.

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