Boating Group: Help Us Build a Better Life Jacket

The boating enthusiasts group BoatUS, teaming with two manufacturers associations, is in the midst of holding a design competition, with prizes of up to $10,000. The goal: to create a life jacket that boaters will actually want to wear.

It was a lesson that Marty McFly learned the hard way when traveling back to 1955: Life jackets aren’t exactly stylish.

Nor are they much fun to wear if you’re actually donning one to protect yourself while boating—they can be uncomfortable, especially in hot weather. And they can be expensive. But the BoatUS Foundation, the safety-focused arm of the Boat Owners Association of the United States (BoatUS), wants to help improve the life-preserver situation on all of these fronts—and they’re doing so with a contest.

The foundation’s 2015 Innovations in Life Jacket Design Competition, which is accepting entries between now and April 15, hopes to bring to light new ideas for making life jackets cheaper, more comfortable, and more reliable. BoatUS hopes to encourage “unconventional designs” in the entries.

“We want this competition to be about getting people to think about what could be next, but also showing people the new kinds of life preservers that are available out there,” BoatUS Foundation Outreach Manager Alanna Keating told The Washington Times.

BoatUS is working closely with two industry groups—the Personal Flotation Device Manufacturers Association and the National Marine Manufacturers Association—on the contest, which will award cash prizes to the winners.

Inflation on Demand

To give you an idea of what might be an effective entry, here’s the 2011 winner of the same contest, a device called the Sea-Tee:

The device is designed to be roughly as thick as a typical rash guard worn by water sports enthusiasts, but it includes an inflatable bladder that offers up to 8 pounds of buoyancy as needed. According to Sea-Tee creator Jeff Betz, the idea was to create a “buoyancy aid” that people would wear.

“Jackets built to 100 percent of the current standards—but not worn—are zero percent effective,” Betz said in a BoatUS news release. “So with the Sea-Tee you can wear essentially the same shirt you’re used to wearing on the water, and have the back-up of a buoyancy aid in case of an emergency.”

If you think you can do as well as Betz did—and win up to $10,000 in the process—submit your entry to BoatUS by April 15.


Ernie Smith

By Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is a former senior editor for Associations Now. MORE

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