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As more and more riders from varying sporting backgrounds and skill levels approach hydrofoiling, impact protection is without a doubt a very sensible idea. Originating in California, Ride Engine have developed a hydrofoil sports specific impact vest in the Defender, which packs a little extra beef. In line with their wetsuit range, the vest is mainly comprised from flexible limestone-based neoprene and some raised impact shell panels. Most of the protection is intelligently placed to cover your upper torso and ribs, and the tough padding is going to protect the vital organs from any foil and board impact as well as the usual hard slaps from water at speed.
The Defender is not horribly bulky, and you can still prone paddle in it without too much interference. We found the fit, which more or less aligns with your T-Shirt size, to be on the snug side initially, but this is definitely on purpose to prevent riding up, as we all know once wet, neoprene definitely gives a little, and the last thing you want is having a heavy impact, surfacing and ending up with it around your ears. The Defender HF has the flexibility to be used alongside a wing or kite harness without being obtrusive, as the lower waist section is more or less devoid of the high impact shell panels. For those learning behind a boat, where rib injuries are fairly commonplace, it’s a must have accessory!
As procedures and manuals for learning foil sports are starting to be set down, with wingfoiling a prime example, every governing body we’ve seen so far is sensibly recommending the use of helmets and impact vests. The Defender HF is a well-executed product that’s going to take the sting out of that initial learning curve, as well as help prevent injury for more experienced riders, and it spans well across the various foiling disciplines.