Latest life jacket technology lends opportunities for fishermen, paddleboarders

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SEATTLE, Wash. — As the weather heats up and we head into summer, many are turning to the water to cool off.

But already swift, cool rivers around Western Washington have turned fun days into tragic ones.

Crews called off the search for missing 46-year-old Lorenzo Perez Wednesday. Perez was swept into the Puyallup River while fishing with his family Sunday.

Perez was not wearing a life jacket. A vast majority of river fishermen don't, says Mark Shimazu, and employee at the Avid Angler.

"Ninety-nine percent don't wear life jackets on the banks," Shimazu says. "You rarely see it."

Shimazu says his store carries a couple different versions of life preservers for fishermen. And he hopes people stay away from slippery rocks and realize that deep, fast water can be dangerous, even from the bank.

Noah Devlin, a Sales Manager at West Marine Supply, says new life jacket technology is making it easier for fishermen and other sportsmen to stay safe on the water without losing much agility.

"With the sports and onset of paddle boarding we've seen some new technology," Devlin says.

Life vests have come a long way from the old, orange jackets worn over the neck that Devlin calls "chopping blocks." He says almost all vests are slimmer now, and allow for easy movement.

"For most people if it's big and heavy and untidy, they're not going to want to wear it," Devlin says. "The new ones have a wider range and ease of comfortably."

New inflatable life vests are a perfect option for those who don't plan on going in the water, but need a back-up plan. Inflatable vests start in the $50 range, and go up from there. Throw-able flotation devices are also available.

Devlin reminded water enthusiasts that keeping life jackets around is often about following the law. One life jacket is required for each person aboard a vessel.

The bottom line is no matter what you plan to do, comfort is a must.

"If it's easy to use and comfortable, wear it, because if it's just on-board it's not saving anyone if you go in," Devlin says.

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