How to choose the right harness for you.
In the eyes of most beginners the kiteboarding harness requires the least thinking through when purchasing their first kite set up. However the kiteboarding harness is a key piece of equipment and a correct fitting one can provide support and reduce muscle fatigue, allowing for a longer, safer and more enjoyable time kiteboarding.
We get asked the ''why is the difference between a seat and a waist harness?'' question a great deal. The first thing we usually respond with is that it's preference. The right harness for you should be the most comfortable and best fitting, this is why it is always recommended to try on as many as possible. However, there are some quite big differences between the 2 which is easy to explain:
The Waist Harnesses:
The waist kiteboarding harness is the most commonly used kiteboarding harness for probably 90% of kiters. Waist harnesses tend to be either stiff or soft. The stiffer models give good support to the lower back. Well located EVA and memory foam give comfort and support to people suffering from lower back pain or for people who want to ride for extended sessions. Softer harnesses allow the rider who wants to progress with their the advanced riding, extra flexibility in the abdomen however typically less lower back support.
Waist kiteboarding harnesses are very durable and can last a long time if properly cared for. However their stiffness and support does decrease with time. So if you're getting pain where there used to be non, especially in the lower back, it’s probably time to upgrade.
- Manoeuvrability: as there are no leg straps and the waist harness sits above your hips it offers you a great deal of flexibility
- Easy to put on: as there is only usually one strap to do up it is very easy to get in and out of a waist harness.
Choice: there are many waist harnesses on the market and all are suited for a different style of rider making it important to do your homework and try as many on as possible
-Waist harness can ride up: if you are keeping the kite high in the sky or the harness is not correctly fitted you may find it rides up and becomes uncomfortable. A properly fitted harness should not do this
-Expensive: the waist harness tends to cost a lot more than a seat
- Back aches: if you have any problems with your lower back a waist harness may not be right for you, however with newer ridged back technology coming in on many harnesses back pain may not be so much of an issue.
Seat harnesses were traditionally used in windsurfing and dinghy sailing with a trapeze. The point at with the kite is attached to the harness is lower on your body and therefore allows you to sit down against the kite.
This also takes the pressure and weight of of the kite off your ribs and lower back and places it on the hips and pelvis, which is a much larger area for load to be spread over, consequently reducing the chances of back issues and or pain.
Many beginners start their kiting days stepping into a seat harness as it does prevent the spreader bar from riding up into the ribs when the kite is at 12 O’clock for long periods.
Seat harnesses have had a rise in popularity with the advent of the Dakine board shorts seat harness. These shorts, however do not offer the same support as a robust seat harness.
So who would benefit from a seat harness? Anyone suffering from chronic and consistent back pain (and cannot wear a waist harness) as well as kiteboard racers/people who like to go fast, as they are able to hold onto much more power than with a waist harness, and anyone who is generally concerned about comfort over style and people with shorter reach.
-The harness will not ride up due to the leg straps which makes it much easier for beginners who will be keeping the kite at 12 for extended periods
-Comfortable on the back: a seat harness takes the pressure off your lower back
- Lower Cost: seat harnesses tend to cost less as they support from the bum and not the lower back, meaning less expensive foam padding on the back.
-Manoeuvrability: due to the the seat harness being fixed in one position some people find it harder to ride blind or toeside. Also larger riders can find it restricting on the legs
-Chaffing: if you kite without a wetsuit then you may have issues with leg straps rubbing against your thighs
Choice: due to the standard shape of a seat harness there is not a massive amount of choice in the market compared to waist harnesses, which means you may not always get the colour or style you want
Once you have decided which style of harness you are after, its time to figure out which size is right for you. Now the best advice we have is to try on and demo as many different brands and styles as possible until you find which is best.
We often compare kiteboarding harness sizing to snowboard/ski boots. Its one of the more overlooked items but if they dont fit right, its a long day on the mountain with sore feet. So take the time and ask as many people as possible and you'll find the right one.
An important aspect to consider as well is, where will you be kiting? If you're in cold water you will be in a wetsuit and therefore your harness may have to be sized accordingly to accommodate the rubber. So dont walk into your local kiteshop in a t-shirt and try harnesses on if you plan to kite in the frozen tundras of Winnipeg.
Below is a rough sizing guide:
Size Inch CM
XS 25''-29'' 63,5-73
S 28''-31'' 71-78
M 30''-33'' 76-83,8
L 32''-35'' 87-89
XL 34''-37'' 86-94
Size Inch CM
XS 24''-27'' 60-68
S 26''-29'' 66-73
M 28''-31'' 71-78
L 30''-33'' 76-83