Liquid Force Shawn Watson

Choosing Between a Comp Vest or CGA Life Jacket

Vests… everyone needs one and shopping for one can be a daunting task. There are so many different styles and features for you to choose from. The most important step in finding your next vest is determining if you need a competition vest or U.S. Coast Guard approved (CGA) life jacket.


In this video, pro wakeboarder Shawn Watson shows us the key differences between a competition vest and a CGA life jacket. Shawn has always been a huge advocate of staying safe out on the water and wearing CGA life jackets. He is actually one of the only wakeboarders to have both a pro model vest in each style!

The style, comfort and fit of CGA life jackets have really improved in recent years! If you haven’t tried one on recently, you’d be amazed at how nice they are now. There really is no good reason to not be wearing one while riding…

Comp Vest

  • Not an actual life jacket or intended for recreational water sports activity
  • Designed for use by professional wakeboarders and waterskiers during competition
  • Not a safety device. Injury or drowning could occur while wearing a comp vest
  • Does not meet U.S. Coast Guard safety requirements

CGA Life Jacket

  • It is an actual life jacket and is intended for everyday watersports use
  • Offers protection and flotation in the case of a serious fall or boating accident
  • A safety device designed to protect your life and save you from drowning
  • Meets U.S. Coast Guard safety requirements and Oregon boating laws

Make Sure The Fit is Right

Wearing a life jacket that fits properly is vital to ensuring proper flotation and safety. A life jacket that is too large will move around on your torso and will not float you correctly in the case of a serious fall. A life jacket that is too small will be be uncomfortable in the water and not provide adequate flotation. You will know it is too small because it will be hard to zip up and might look a bit funny on you.

The best way to check if a vest fits right is to have a friend stand behind you and pull up on the shoulder straps. If it easily goes over your head, it is too big.

Local Life Jacket Laws

The state of Oregon requires the following with respect to personal flotation devices (life jackets):

  • All boats must carry one U.S. Coast Guard approved wearable Type I, II, III, or V life jacket for each person on board or being towed.
  • Each life jacket must be in good and serviceable condition and must be readily accessible. The life jacket must be of the proper size for the intended wearer. 
  • Boats 16 ft. in length or longer must have one Type IV PFD (throwable device) on board and it must be immediately accessible.
  • A child 12 years old and younger must wear a U.S. Coast Guard–approved life jacket at all times while on an open deck or cockpit of a boat that is underway or when the child is being towed. 
  • Each person on board a PWC must wear a U.S. Coast Guard–approved Type I, II, or III life jacket. Inflatable life jackets are not approved for persons on PWC.

Oregon is one of the few states that does not legally require adults to wear a U.S. Coast Guard approved life jacket while participating in watersports.

Finding Your Next Life Jacket

Active Water Sports has almost over 100 different vest styles, including 35+ CGA life jackets for you to choose from. Head over to to check out the newest 2020 vests from top brands like Ronix, Liquid Force, Follow and O’Neill.

Give us a call us at (503) 765-7474 if you’d like help from one of our product experts.  


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