Ali Wood tests the Red Original 50N buoyancy aid on a club sail in Christchurch Harbour
With buoyancy aids, it’s handy to have a pocket for a handheld radio, snack and multitool, and if you’re on a boat, maybe a spare kill-cord or engine key. I was keen to try the Red Original 50N buoyancy aid because of its expandable front pocket.
There’s plenty of room in the pocket, but there is a 1in gap where the zip ends, and it’s not water-resistant so bear in mind anything inside the pocket can get wet. Normally I’d be a size small, but in this model, ‘small’ is designed for kids (and has a crotch-strap, which the adult version doesn’t).
The medium size is therefore for users weighing 50-70kg, which is still fairly small for an adult. It’s unisex, but the problem for me is I have a short trunk, so when I wear this for dinghy sailing it’s a bit gappy on the shoulders.
While this isn’t an issue when standing or kneeling on a SUP it does mean that when you fall in, the buoyancy aid sits around your chin and impedes your ability to swim. To be fair, this is a problem I find with a lot of buoyancy aids, and the advantage of a longline ‘SUP fit’ is slimline foam, so it’s not as bulky.
Plus, it might also suit users with a larger bust or chest. The buoyancy aid has mesh sides, which are comfy and breathable over bare skin and swimsuits, and an attachment point for a SUP leash or small carabiner.
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The zip is on the side, which sometimes interferes with the attachment point and waist adjustment clip, so it does take slightly longer to get on and off than a regular ‘over-the-head’ or ‘front-zip’ model. But it is comfortable and moulds to the body, allowing plenty of room under the armpits (as long as you’re not swimming), avoiding chafe.