A REVIEW OF WINDSURFING HARNESS TYPES
A guide to help you pick the right harness type, construction and features for the sailing that you do.
Choosing a harness style involves a few vital considerations on your sailing preferences, plus, as we're all different shapes and sizes, it's also a personal thing where correct fit is also vital.
WAIST OR SEAT
Traditionally the seat harness has been for racers and the waist harness for freestyle, wave and freeride sailing.
A seat hugs your bum and has straps around the upper legs/groin to help anchor-down power.
Seat harness with low hook preferred by many for racing
Waist harnesses go around the stomach/kidney area and, because of their generally higher hook heigh allow a more upright, 'on the toes' stance.
This makes it easier to hook in and out of for more 'active' sailing where you need to swiftly unhook more often - say, for tricks or jumps rather than just at the end of a long reach.
However, some seat harnesses have higher hooks and some body types suit a seat harness better - it's all about getting the correct hook height for you.
TAKE A LOAD OFF
Harness hooks are part of a Spreader Bar that distributes the load.
Most are fixed into position with webbing traps for a direct feel of power transfer.
Others are sliding dependent on preference.
Sliding hook and internal shaping
SCULTPED FOR YOU
Some harnesses are simply foam covered in fabric and some are 'thermoformed', which means they are moulded into shape and laminated using materials that do no absorb water and so are lighter and often more ergonomically shaped too.
Thermoforming is almost exclusively for waist harnesses only.
As they sit around your bum, seat harnesses are usually made of thinner, lighter fabric, with foam support only on some more freeride-oriented, higher hook models in the lower back region.
Racing models are quite 'bare' and light weight, hugging the lower navel and buttocks only.
For waist harnesses, most modern styles have internal shaping that allows the foam inside to both comfort and support the lower back, but also grip the torso to prevent the harness riding up.
They will also usually feature a neoprene and elastic Velcro fastening belt inside that adds some tension to prevent slippage.
The stretchy neoprene and elastic allows some inbuilt flex to avoid discomfort and enable mobility.
Getting the right length (i.e., not too short) harness lines can also prevent this happening.
BUCKLE UP BUTTERCUP
Windsurfing harnesses feature a variety of hook/spreader bar attachment methods.
The majority use webbing straps and buckles to tighten/release the tension and many also feature Quick Release systems that help an instant release should you remain hooked in and are caught under the rig after a catapult or crash.
You will see plain harness hooks with exposed steel and others built into a wider pad that spreads the load more as the webbing straps attach to the pad not directly to the bar. (Pretty much on waist harnesses only though as otherwise the pad restricts upper leg movement and tuck.)
Spreader Bar pad on thermoformed harness with QR buckle
Whether you prefer a direct power transfer sensation or a more dispersed feeling of load spread is a personal thing.
The most important thing is to go to a store and try on loads and use the lines they will have built into the wall to feel the fit and level of comfort. (Don't go and buy it online for a few bucks less - respect the store with years of experience that serves and advises you!)
READ MORE WINDSURFING EQUIPMENT SELECTION ADVICE
Here's a chart outlining key sizes and features to help you make the right choice for your preferred sailing style. For more charts and useful information please visit our Knowledge Section.