Learning how to windsurf with a harness is one of those abilities that opens the door to longer sessions on the water as it save you heaps of energy. At this point you will have to decide on the harness you want to get for yourself. Much like the wetsuit, it is one of those things that you will want to have your own of.
Waist Harness vs Seat Harness
You essentially have two options when it comes to harnesses: a seat harness or a waist harness. Ultimately it comes down to preference. The most important factor to take into consideration is how it feels when you wear it. It should never be uncomfortable, have a single pressure point and much less hurt when using it. The more distributed the force in the harness, the more comfortable it will be to wear and the more fun we will have on the water.
Nevertheless, aside from comfort, each harness type has its advantages and disadvantages. I will break down the pros and cons of each type.
This is the most common type of harness used for wave and freestyle.
- The main benefit of a waist harness is that it is very easy to get in and out of the harness lines since the hook is higher up.
- Another benefit is that when sailing upwind, it allows you to turn your body so that you are facing the sailing direction as the harness usually slides around a little. At least for me, this makes for a relaxed body position when sailing upwind.
- Putting on a waist harness is also faster and less hassle than a seat harness
- Since the harness is high up, it is not really compatible with life jackets. In some locations such as Lake Garda where life jackets are compulsory, this may make the decision somewhat easier.
- When planing, you not only have to keep the legs pushing forward but also remember to keep the hips pushing forward as well so you don’t fall into the monkey stance.
If you fluctuate much in body size, the waist harness will become too big or too small pretty fast. Since it only stays in place due to a correct fit to your body,if it is too big, it can slide up to your chest pretty fast.
- If you have a big belly, a waist harness is probably not for you. It is like wearing a belt loosely at the belly button, it will most probably slide up or down and be a nuisance.
Seat harnesses are pretty much made to sail comfortably. All they need is a cup holder. It is a harness mainly for freeriding, raceing and slalom sailing. Anything with long tacks.
- Since the hook is lower on a seat harness, we tend to have an easier time avoiding catapults.
- Once you are planing, basically all you have to do is push your body away from the board with your legs and lean back. Due to the hook being at pelvis height, we don’t have to focus on pushing our hips forward to keep our body straight.
- Only this harness works with big bellies since the hook is below the belly and the straps between the legs keep it in place.
- The straps that go between the legs keep the harness in place so even if it is a little big, it is less likely to slide around than a waist harness.
- They are a little bit more of a hassle to get in and out of the harness lines. Since the hook is at hip height, we have to thrust our hips forward more to hook in and out which can result in loss of stability.
- This is not really a valid point but at 14 I chose a waist harness mainly because I thought a seat harness looked like a diaper 😛
Waist Harness or Seat Harness?
So to answer the question: should I buy a waist harness or seat harness? My answer would be:
Waist Harness: For people without a big belly that sail in waves, or on short tacks and do not sail with life jackets.
Seat Harness: For people focusing on sailing with big sails, on long tacks, with life jackets or with big bellies.
Here is a fun article by Boards Magazine on the subject which is not only informative but also a pretty entertaining read.
Some people might consider buying a kitesurfing harness. There are two main differences between a kitesurfing harness and a windsurfing harness.
The hook on a kitesurfing harness is more closed meaning that it is harder to get in and out of. For kitesurfer this is perfect as they only hook in once to start, and hook out once to finish. For windsurfing this is less practical as you want to be able to hook out easily if you have to (for example to avoid a catapult).
Kitesurfing harnesses usually have a grip and/or a plastic cord on the back. One is for a second person to hold on to them in strong winds, the second is for the safety leash when they do unhooked tricks. Both are irrelevant in windsurfing.
So, if you are faced with the decision of whether to buy a windsurfing or kitesurfing harness, as long as you can change the hook for a windsurfing harness, it doesn’t matter. What matters is that you feel comfortable when wearing it and leaning back in it. Some shops have a rope or harness line setup in which to hook in to and lean back to test the feel of the harness in the windsurfing position.
I personally have a windsurfing waist harness (with a windsurfing hook) that I also use for kitesurfing with no disadvantage whatsoever.
Let me know your thoughts and experiences with harness selection in the comments.