If you are an adventure enthusiast and are passionate about river rafting or similar activities, then you must be aware of the significance of life jackets. These personal floatation devices, or PFDs, are an integral part of different types of sailing, boating, canyoning and rafting activities. It is because of these life jackets that we tend to feel safe while exploring the beauty of water bodies.

But have you ever thought about how these life jackets came into existence in the first place? 

Let’s learn a bit more about the history of these floatation devices, which allow us to participate in different water sports with a carefree attitude.

Life Jackets- History

As per the available data, it is suggested that human beings have been using boats for the last 10,000 years. They share an intimate history with water bodies around the globe. It is, therefore, quite obvious that people have been using different types of tools to sail through water bodies and stay afloat.

The first ever PFD known to mankind dates back to 3000 years ago. A sculpted artwork in the British Museum depicts Assyrian soldiers in 860 BC crossing a river with the help of inflated animal skins.

Experts have got ample evidence of animal bladders, skin and hollow gourds being used before 1800 as a tool to stay afloat in water bodies. It was only after 1800 that something similar to life jackets came into existence, and the advertisement appeared in a popular sports magazine.

Buoyant materials like corks were used to manufacture these floating devices. Historians even have proof that these cork life jackets were actively being used by lifeboat crew members to save lives during sea storms. Further, in 1900, people started using batteries and rubber to improve the quality of the PFDs. Basically, the idea was to send and receive SOS messages for search and rescue teams.

It feels interesting to know that kapok, an extremely lightweight natural material, was used to make jackets during World War II. It is during this phase only that life vests were also discovered. Kapok could be obtained naturally from the seed pods of a specific kind of tree.

Life Jackets and Whitewater Rafting

Before the 1960s, most of the whitewater rafters did not use PFDs as they did not cater to the safety requirements during rafting. As a result, whitewater rafting was considered a risky activity and many rafters used to die or get injured in the process.

It was in the 1970s that the first ever Coast Guard-approved type III lie jackets were discovered by Maurice O’Link. These vests made river rafting much safer and helped rafters to paddle and sail through the rapids easily.

After that, in the 1980s, type V PFD came into existence in Europe. These vests were designed keeping in mind the specific requirements of water sports enthusiasts.

With the advancement in life jackets, rafting, too, saw substantial growth and popularity in the next few years. As a result, rafting made its way to the Olympics in the 1970s. Also, commercial rafting started in Colorado in the 1980s. The affordability, element of safety and comfort of these life jackets are the major factors that contributed towards their popularity in whitewater rafting.

Modern-Day Life Jackets

As we have seen, PFDs have just got safer and more comfortable with time. Today, they come with different features, such as resilient fabric, adjustable straps, and different sizes for adults, infants, youth and so on. These life jackets also come in different categories, such as PFDs for water sports, for commercial usage, and for recreational activities such as leisure boating and so on. Every year, we get to see life jackets of different designs and materials that come laden with attractive features. With the passage of time, further improvements can be expected in life jackets based on modern technology and access to better-quality raw materials. 

Parting Thoughts

Rafting is one such activity that requires the participants to wear safety gear for complete protection. Life jackets are mandatory in contemporary times for those adventure junkies who wish to participate in rafting. At Malduk Adventures, we offer top-notch quality life jackets to all the rafters to ensure that they stay safe and enjoy river rafting to the core. Next time you are in Croatia, do give us a chance to serve you with our impeccable quality adventure tourism services.