For Comparison's Sake: Water-Sports PFDs

Choose the right water-sports lifejacket

Jetpilot Recruit
The Ride: The least expensive of the trio, this unisex jacket (it's available in pink) is made with Yamamoto neoprene, which lasts longer and is softer against the skin. It's dual sized and comes in small-medium, medium-large, etc. to fit a wider audience so you don't have to replace it as often. The Crash: It looks a little shorter than the competition, so it might not protect as well in a crash. Other jackets come in men's and women's versions. $59.99; jetpilot.com
Hyperlite Team
The Ride: Available in men's and women's versions, the Team has independent segmented rib panels for superior protection and maximum range of motion. Two 1½-inch-wide straps are concealed in the jacket so they can't catch on anything, preventing snags for the wearer. The Crash: It's the most expensive of the three jackets by far, and the primarily black color means it could get too hot to touch if left out in a strong summer sun. $150; hyperlite.com
Body Glove Phantom
The Ride: Body Glove makes the Phantom in men's, women's, teen, youth, child and infant sizes out of a neoprene outer shell with foam flotation. The Innertec interior lining feels soft against bare skin, and the manufacturer's Glide-Lock printing helps keep the jacket from riding up. The Crash: Straps are not concealed, so they could get snagged on things such as cleats. Black buckle could also get too hot to touch if left out in the sun. $89.99; bodyglove.com

For activities such as wakesurfing, boarding or even tubing or skiing, riders want a less clunky, more form-fitting life jacket that won’t restrict movement or get hung up on the tow rope. We checked out three that are U.S. Coast Guard ­approved and have full zippers with two buckling straps.