Let’s face it, life jackets can be uncomfortable and very few people ever wear them. Despite improvements, such as inflatable vests and purpose specific vests, the number of fatalities due to drowning is still alarmingly high. A recent visit to Surf Expo, a board sports and beach/resort lifestyle trade show in Orlando, Florida, revealed some completely new thinking in safety on the water. Some innovative thinkers have come up with back-up devices that are not a replacement for a life jacket but rather a comfortable device that can be worn while on or in the water and can provide some added safety.
The Restube came about after its inventor, Christopher Fuhrop, got into serious trouble while kite surfing. He spoke to other kite surfers and discovered that there didn’t appear to be any comfortable, unobtrusive flotation device that would work for him. A German engineering student, he went to work and designed his own solution and the Restube was born. This new ‘back-up’ lifesaving device is now gaining popularity in Europe and elsewhere.
Available in four models, the concept is the same – a very small belt pack containing an inflatable tube that has a tether attached to it. When in trouble you pull a tab that instantly inflates the tube via a CO2 cartridge. When inflated you now have a buoyant tube similar to the buoys lifeguards use that you can hold onto to help you float, swim, or use as a visual signal for help. It can be deflated, repacked and used again and again when a new cartridge is installed. There is a Basic, Classic, and Sports model, along with a Lifeguard model that can be wrapped around a victim, aiding in a rescue. The Basic model comes with a waist belt and a simple Velcro closure. The Classic allows horizontal or vertical mounting and has a key pocket. The Sports model is designed for rough water use and has a simple splint closure that will not open accidentally and can be mounted on a belt or harness. Restubes are currently available online at Restube.com.
The Kingii claims to be the smallest inflatable in the world and can be worn on the wrist, similar to a watch. The elegant design has an activation lever that releases a small inflation cushion the size of a dinner plate. It too is inflated with a replaceable CO2 cartridge and acts as a flotation aid when needed. Invented by Tom Athanasios after losing a friend to drowning, he came up with a solution that would be small and comfortable enough for anyone to wear while in the water. It is designed as a back-up for swimmers, athletes and anyone 16 or over, on or around the water. Athanasios explains it is not a replacement for a life jacket, but it can save lives if worn and can give vital flotation should a swimmer encounter problems such as cramping or exhaustion. Pre-orders for this new device are available online at Kingii.us.
Lifeshirt is another new product that is comfortable to wear and has the potential to save many from drowning. This clever design was created after a near tragedy when Rosario Poma’s son was dragged out to sea in a rip current during a visit to the beach. Deeply moved by this near tragedy, he approached Jim Beach to help design a comfortable shirt that could inflate and save its wearer from downing. After hard work – and several prototypes – Lifeshirt was born.
The inflatable shirts are available in sizes tailored for small children and up to adults, with specific models designed for women and even lightweight sun-protective model shirts for fishermen. The children’s models will automatically inflate when immersed in water. Adult versions have the ability to be automatic or manual depending on application. Similar to rash guards and sun protective shirts, they all provide automatic flotation should the individual fall overboard or need immediate flotation. They are reusable and utilize CO2 cartridges and simple bobbin trigger devices for auto operation. There are several models available, all offering a comfortable, wearable flotation solution for anyone on the water. Details can be found at Lifeshirt.com and will be available for purchase soon.
The simple fact is any of these devices can help save lives if they are worn. With these products, comfort is no longer an excuse.
Glenn Hayes is a freelance photographer and writer living in West Central Florida. His work covers marine, commercial, editorial and fine art work. Visit: www.HayesStudios.com