Buying Guide: Kiteboarding Harnesses
By Ian Perkins
The harness you wear while kite boarding is going to affect your comfort, ride style and performance while playing in the wind. There are two different styles of harness as well as a number of different harness manufacturers so choosing the right one for you can be daunting.
The first thing you’re going to determine is whether you prefer a waist harness or a seat harness. Each style of kiteboarding harness has its pro’s and con’s for different styles of kiting, and they fit a little differently as well.
Waist Harness – The waist harness is exactly what it sounds like. It fastens around your waist, between the Iliac Crest (top of hip bone) and the rib cage. They provide good lower and middle back support and allow the riders body to support the pull of the kite. Generally, they have a Velcro waist strap that is reinforced with a spread bar closure. When wearing, wrap the harness around your body, affix the Velcro strap and then tighten and adjust the spreader bar for complete closure. The waist harness is less bulky than the seat harness, so it allows for a better range of motion and is generally more comfortable than your standard seat harness. The downsides to waist harness generally are caused by poor fit. If your waist harness doesn’t fit you properly it can ride up with kiting. This causes issue because it moves the weight of the kite farther up, away from your center of gravity which will affect your balance. Because the weight is focused on the lower back, riders who experience back pain will sometimes experience irritation. If you have back issues, it might be wise to get fitted in a shop to ensure you have the perfect harness for you. Generally water based kiters prefer a waist harness, although either will work.
Seat Harness – The seat harness is shaped more like a pair of shorts. When worn, it cups the rider’s rear end and has support straps that ride between the legs. The seat harness carries its advantages in the support that it provides on the riders body. The leg loops and general shape of the harness allow the rider to bare the kite weight more comfortably. Seat harnesses will not ride up when kiting, maintaining the center of gravity. It also allows the rider to physically sit, using the force of gravity to control the kite in high winds. Seat harnesses are also often highly padded, so rubbing is not an issue. The disadvantages come in the bulk that comes with a seat harness. Because they are larger and encompass more of the body, they are harder to take on and off, as well as bulky when riding. Seat harnesses are great for newer riders. When learning to kite, having a more secure center of gravity allows for better control and an easy transition when in panic mode.
Finding the right harness size is fairly straight forward. All harnesses are adjustable, so you have some room to flex as you gain and lose weight, or if you’re looking to wear layers in the winter for snow kiting and lose them in the summer when water kiting. You’ll want to size your harness by waist size. It should be noted that each vendor has its own specific sizing so the above chart is only considered to be a guideline. For more exact measurements, check out the vendor specific size charts.
|Size||Waist (in.)||Waist (cm.)|
All harness will come with a set of features that make them standard and compatible with any kite. Here’s a quick breakdown of the terminology:
Spreader Bar & Harness Hook – The spreader bar runs across the front of the waist line to ensure that the weight from the kite is evenly distributed across the entire harness, rather than pulling on a single point. This increases both comfort and strength of the harness. The harness hook is what the kite attaches to when riding. Generally it will be open hook so the kite can easily pop on and off when needed. The kite or the control bar system will come with a rigging system to ensure that it doesn’t pop off at its own will.
Tightening Straps – Generally located on one (or both) sides of the harness, the tightening straps ensure the perfect fit.
Safety Leash Attachment Point – This is a crucial feature on any kiteboarding harness. When kiting, you’re going to attach and emergency line to your harness to ensure that you don’t end up without a kite in the case of an emergency. It is, of course, releasable if you do need to shed your kite, but generally speaking that is your last resort.
Spreader Bar Pad (Optional) – Some harnesses will be adaptable, or better yet, come with a spreader bar par. This simply attaches to the spreader bar to give your torso some extra protection from hard hits on the water.