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It's the Law


When preparing to go out on a vessel, the operator must check that the legally required equipment is on board.

Personal Flotation Devices (PFDs)


All vessels (including canoes, kayaks, and other paddlecraft) must have at least one Type I, II, III, or V (wearable) personal flotation device (PFD) that is U.S. Coast Guard (USCG)–approved for each person on board.

Texas law requires that all children under 13 years of age wear a USCG–approved Type I, II, III, or V PFD while underway (not at anchor, moored, or aground) on any vessel less than 26 feet long, including canoes, kayaks, and other paddlecraft.

In addition to the above requirements, vessels 16 feet or longer (except canoes and kayaks) must have one Type IV (throwable) USCG–approved PFD on board that is readily accessible.

One Type V may be substituted for any other type if it is specifically approved by the USCG for the activity at hand. Type V PFDs may not be substituted on children weighing less than 90 lbs.

Each person riding on or being towed behind a PWC must wear a USCG–approved Type I, II, III, or V PFD.

Besides being USCG–approved, all PFDs must be:

  • In good and serviceable condition.
  • Readily accessible, which means you are able to put the PFD on quickly in an emergency.
  • Of the proper size for the intended wearer. Sizing for PFDs is based on body weight and chest size.
Type I

Type I: Wearable Offshore Life Jackets

These vests are geared for rough or remote waters where rescue may take awhile. They provide the most buoyancy, are excellent for flotation, and will turn most unconscious persons face up in the water.

Type II

Type II: Wearable Near-Shore Vests

These vests are good for calm waters when quick rescue is likely. A Type II may not turn some unconscious wearers face up in the water.

Type III

Type III: Wearable Flotation Aids

These vests or full-sleeved jackets are good for calm waters when quick rescue is likely. They are not recommended for rough waters since they will not turn most unconscious persons face up.

Type IV

Type IV: Throwable Devices

These cushions and ring buoys are designed to be thrown to someone in trouble. Because a Type IV is not designed to be worn, it is neither for rough waters nor for persons who are unable to hold onto it.

Type V

TYPE V: Special-Use Devices

These vests, deck suits, hybrid PFDs, and others are designed for specific activities such as windsurfing, kayaking, or water-skiing. To be acceptable, Type V PFDs must be used in accordance with their label.