Professional surfers have been employing the use of inflation vests for over 5 years to help keep them safe in the unpredictable world of big wave surfing. The raw power of the ocean and life-threatening potential of wipeouts sent the best pros in the world searching for a tool to help tilt the odds of survival in their favor, the tool they found was the inflation vest. A small group of the best big wave surfers in the world began working with the Research & Development teams at their sponsors Patagonia (Portable Self Inflation PSI Vest), Quiksilver (Airlift Vest), and Billabong (V1 Wetsuit) to develop inflation vests they could wear on the world’s biggest waves, at places like Nazare, Mavericks, and Waimea Bay. Each company has created it’s own version of an inflatable vest which they provide to their professional teams. The designs of the vests have improved over the years however consumers have always had the same problem; the vests are not available to the public, consumers are on the outside looking in without access to the safety technology used by the pros. Hyde has changed this by being the first company to introduce the inflation vest technology used by the pros to the general public, Hyde’s vest, the Wingman, is the first and only US Coast Guard approved inflatable surf vest for sale to consumers.
When we began designing the Wingman in 2012 we took much inspiration from the inflatable avalanche backpacks used by professional skiers and snowboarders in the backcountry. We set out with a broader mission than Patagonia and Quiksilver, where these brands wanted to create the best big wave surf vest in the world, Hyde set out to create the best and most versatile inflation vest in the world. We wanted to create a product that could be your big wave surf vest in the morning and your USCG approved kayak vest in the evening. We also realized that the big brands might never release their vests to the public, widening the gap between the resources available to the public and the pros. We thought that inflation vests had just as much utility to the general public as the professionals, and could provide the added layer of security and comfort that many people desire during water sports. Our team took the USCG approval requirements into account when designing the vest to ensure that the Wingman would obtain USCG approval.
The Wingman is a world-class inflation vest for surfers, especially when paired with the compatible Hyde Surf Shirt which will be released soon. Some unique features of the Wingman which make it a great surf vest include Hyde’s patented CO2 mounting plate which locates the CO2 cylinder on the user's back, aligned with the spine, the ideal location for surfing as it isn’t pressing against your chest when paddling like on other inflation vests. It is aligned between your shoulder blades so the user doesn’t feel it when paddling. The Wingman also features a back up inflation/deflation tube which allows users to deflate the vest quickly if they need to duck under a wave after inflation. The tube also allows surfers to blow air into the vest and maintain partial inflation if they’d prefer when surfing in high-risk environments. The Wingman is designed to be worn as a standalone vest or over the top of any wetsuit or shirt. It provides the added layer of security many surfers desire when doing what they love. Beyond being a great surf vest the Wingman is also a great paddling vest, sailing vest, kitesurfing vest, etc., it truly is the Swiss Army Knife of Life Jackets and is available now.