Thirteen children were among 79 people caught not wearing lifejackets as they headed out to sea this summer.
The Bay of Plenty Regional Council surveyed 259 vessels and occupants at boat ramps across the region from December 26 last year to February 6.
Of the 638 adults and 124 children surveyed, 66 adults and 13 children were not wearing lifejackets. When asked why, eight people said they did not think there was a risk, five said lifejackets were too expensive and three said they were uncomfortable.
Others said lifejackets were "uncool" or they had confidence in the skipper's abilities.
The survey results, released to the Bay of Plenty Times, showed 11 of the vessels checked did not have any form of communication on board and 16 boaties reported not having checked the marine weather before heading out.
Tauranga Coastguard spokesman Simon Barker said generally people on large launches did not wear lifejackets "but if you were to be cautious you should wear them".
Wearing lifejackets should be second nature for people on smaller boats, he said.
"You never know when something might happen."
Lifejackets were heralded for helping save the lives of two local men when their kayak capsized in Tauranga Harbour last Tuesday night.
The pair was forced to abandon the kayak and swim naked, except for the lifejackets, to Matakana Island.
Last month Katikati man Tim Mair drowned after a wave flipped the boat he and four others were on at Bowentown Heads. Only Mr Mair's 7-year-old grandson was wearing a lifejacket.
Te Puke boatie Chris Muir said he regularly went out without wearing a lifejacket but ensured he wore one when things got rough.
"I always have way more than I need on board. You just never know. I always have first aid kits, flare kits. It depends. I'll always wear one if there are kids on board, you've got to set a good example."