The Best Kitesurf Harness: Top 6 For 2021

isolated photo of man in wetsuit wearing a best kitesurf harness

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Finding the best kitesurf harness for you is one of the most important kiting gear decisions to make. It’s unfortunate that many new riders underestimate the role of a kite harness. A harness isn’t an accessory, it’s a fundamental piece of gear for kite surfing & kiteboarding.

To help you choose a kitesurfing harness in 2021, I wrote this article. Discover harnesses from brands like Ride Engine, Mystic, ION, and Dakine. While colors and looks often attract buyers, there are 4 vital boxes to tick to find the right harness. These are user comfort, safety features, material quality and fit.

For ease of use there is a clickable table of contents to navigate to a specific product or section. Otherwise, scroll down to learn which kitesurf harness is best for you.

We updated this article in January 2021 to reevaluate the recommended kitesurf harnesses to ensure they meet current standards. For this year two new models hits our “best of” list. Plus updated models from Ride Engine and ION as well. Read on to discover our 2021 picks for the best kitesurf harness.

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Table of Contents

Comparison Chart

Best All-Around Kitesurf Harness: Carbon Hardshell

Purple label with gold anchor stating Editor's choice
2021 Ride Engine Elite Carbon black
  • Body Materials: Fusion Foam 1 Under Neoprene (Now 4mm More Fusion Foam!)
  • Shell Construction: 12K Carbon Armor Shell Skin
  • Lumbar Support: Lumbar Lock Shell
  • Belt: Padded With Soft Velcro
  • Hook Type: Sold Separately
  • Closure Type: Unity Ladder-Lock Straps
  • Leash Attachments: Dual Attachments (Rear Handle Pass & 2 Front Points)
  • Spreader Bar Included: No
  • Warranty (years): 1
What We Like
What We Do Not Like

Ride Engine Elite Carbon Red Review

Looking for a super stiff hard shell with unshakable support? The Ride Engine Carbon Elite is the best in 2021. These are the stiffest the lightest low profile hard shell harnesses from Ride Engine (RE).

New Features For 2021

The newest feature is the attachment for the new “Unity Spreader Bar.” The harness now uses the custom-molded Unity Ladder-Lock Straps. These eliminate the use of traditional webbing, creating a no-slip, locked-in fit.

Next, the soft fusion foam core gets an extra 4 mm added to it. This internal foam molds to shape of my body, cushioning pressure and load from my kite. Over top, neoprene wraps around the edges of the harness to help reduce any pinching on my ribs.

Continuing from last year, Ride Engine provides the awesome shell skin technology. This provides ultraviolet, impact and abrasion resistance, plus water and tear Resistance. The construction of the shell is a 100% carbon fiber composite called 12k carbon. In my hands it’s rock solid and much more solid than the older Prime Series from Ride Engine (Hex Core).

Fit wise the profile of the harness is low and firm around the middle of my torso due to RE’s “lumbar lock” system. This is an ergonomic contour on the shell which locks into place along your spine. By locking in, you don’t experience twisting or riding up. This means the common back pain related to softer, flimsy harnesses is a thing of the past. For this reason, it’s a top kitesurf harness for riders that suffer from lower back pain. When wearing it, the precise fit of the shell distributes even traction over my entire back.

Ride Engine Sizing

Note: I find that for sizing it’s the same as last year. For reference, I am 5’10 with a 31 waist and I wear a small for in the Carbon Elite model.

Keep in mind for sizing a Ride Engine harness, it either fits your body or it doesn’t, there is no in-between. If it fits you are in for a treat, but if there is even slight movement, don’t pick this one.

It’s important to understand that movement is bad for kiting harnesses. Movement allows the harness to torque around and put painful pressure on your sides. If you feel significant movement in a harness it doesn’t fit you body shape,

For riders that do fit this harness it has an excellent and improved fastening system. Last year, they add dual webbed anti-slip straps that in 2021 stay right in place. Plus it uses a stainless steel clasp with buckle guards to stop you line from snagging on them.

The new unity ladder-lock straps are super easy to fasten, and the connection is ultra stable. It also has two front-mounted leash attachment points if you don’t use the rear handle pass.

Lacks A Spreader Bar

One thing to note, Ride Engine doesn’t include spreader bars. Their explanation is that every ride style is different. The company sells three compatible options including:

  • Fixed hook spreader bar: the classic hook for freestyle riders
  • Slider spreader bar: pass through cable for wave riders
  • Special fixed hook spreader bar: designed for windsurfing

Bottom line: The Best Kitesurf Harness

While the Carbon Infrared is expensive, you definitely get what you pay for. What you get is the finest materials, ultimate lumbar support and safety to boot. Do yourself a favor and buy it.

Supportive Hybrid Shell For Long Torso Riders

Dakine Pyro Multisport Harness - Black
  • Body Materials: Featherweight ES Foam Molded Interior Under Neoprene
  • Shell Construction: Honeycomb Mesh Shell
  • Lumbar Support: Pre-curved P.E.B Inner Support With Adaptive Fit Texon Composite Back Plate
  • Belt: Independent Velcro Primary & Secondary Power Belts
  • Hook Type: Sold Separately
  • Closure Type: Dual Webbing Straps With Quick Clip Closure
  • Leash Attachments: Two Front Short Leash Points Plus Rear Slide Bar
  • Spreader Bar Included: No
  • Warranty (years): 2
What We Like
What We Do Not Like

Dakine Pyro Review:

If you are a kite surfer with a long torso in 2021 and prefer a hybrid harness pick the Dakine Pyro. The Pyro continues to be super supportive via it’s super large back plate. It’s much bigger than any of the other harnesses in this article. A large hybrid harness is a great option for beginners looking for a step up from seat style kitesurf harnesses.

New & Improved Lumbar Support

The shell for the Dakine Pyro is a reinforced honeycomb shell. The inner side of the shell uses an adaptive fit composite with Texon back plate support. In the middle it’s stiff but being a hybrid the side panels flex and soft wrap on your sides. As a result, a tall torso ride has full support, with less slippage and great range of movement. This massive back coverage gives precise load dispersion throughout the body.

Inside Dakine uses a featherweight ES memory foam that’s thermo-molded and wrapped in neoprene. To add, it has two side key / knife pockets with elastic loops to store important items. I like that there are two points on the front to attach a leash.

I don’t have the body type to wear the Pyro, so I asked my friend Jay for his thoughts. For reference Jay is 6’3” and wears a medium in the Dakine Pyro.

The Best Hybrid Harness For Long Torso Riders? 

“At first wear of the Dakine Pyro I noticed the enhanced fit and comfort. The bolstered memory foam molded interior, is soft and plush on my skin. Each side panel is flexible and suctions onto the shape of my waist. Like most Dakine harnesses it has the elastic overlapping belt closures. For beginners, it’s a great harness because it doesn’t slip up and it holds you in a perfect position. The three straps are easy to tighten and don’t loosen which is super important to reduce ride up. Is this the best harness for long torso riders? Well if you love hybrid harnesses, my answer is a definite yes!”

Combined with the new Dakine Pyro is the option spreader bar. This features the easy-connect/disconnect push button with dual webbing straps. Its nice and comfy due to the freedom shape spreader bar pad.

All in all, the Dakine Pyro is a classic but improved hybrid shell kitesurf harness that works best for long torso riders. Or it’s a good option for beginners looking to move up from a seat harness. As an added bonus, riders get versatility due to it being compatible with the Maniac spreader bar and the Option spreader bar.

Top Women's Hardshell Kitesurf Harness

top marks label in blue with yellow check mark
Mystic Gem Bruna
  • Body Materials: Non-Slip IV Foam (Inner) & KiteFlex Neoprene (Outer)
  • Shell Construction: Roven Composite Bionic Core Shell
  • Lumbar Support: Non-Slip Fix Foam
  • Belt: Battle Belt 2.0 With Integrated Safety Knife Pocket & Velcro Closure
  • Hook Type: Sold Separately
  • Closure Type: Dual Straps With Battle Belt Closure
  • Leash Attachments: Single Front Attachment
  • Spreader Bar Included: No
  • Warranty (years): 1
What We Like
What We Do Not Like

Mystic Gem Bruna Harness Review

To provide a proper review, I am deferring to another member of the OI crew Lori for this pick:

My pick for the best kitesurf harness for women in 2021 is again the Mystic Gem hard shell harness. I prefer Bruna Kajiya’s 2021 model colorway this year but that’s my preference. Beyond cosmetics, I love the close attention made to the shape of this harness.

Female Specific Construction

To ensure lumbar support Mystic uses body mapping to create stiff horizontal support. For diagonal flex the Gem uses a “Roven Composite” shell, the same material as the Mystic Majestic. Consider Roven composite as a softer material than a 100% carbon shell. This means its more forgiving and offers a bit more flexibility for wave riding.

While it’s low profile in the side plates, on the back it curves up more than the male specific waist harnesses. This bigger curvature supports my back better and reduces uncomfortable ride up. While the shell is stiff, there is some flex to help me feel confident slashing big top turns in the waves.

Inside the harness is this cool rubber-like non-slip EVA foam. It stays in place as I ride and doesn’t smash into my chest like others I have tried in the past. When worn, I appreciate soft neoprene edges called knit flex. It doesn’t pinch me as I make brisk movements and doesn’t jab into my hips. The battle belt closure is thick and comfortable.

I like that it comes with key pocket and easy to tighten dual webbing straps. The one I tired didn’t come with a hook knife but I don’t mind buying one after. I enjoy that there is a single leash attachment on the front of the harness because I ride with a short leash.

For spreader bars, the Gem doesn’t come with one, but I actually prefer that. Instead, Mystic sell modular hook or slider spreader bars to give ultimate versatility.

Verdict

Buy the Mystic Gem if you want an excellent women specific kite surfing harness. It’s the best option for a waist harness which molds to your body. Plus if you kiteboard this harness has spreader bars to accommodate every style kiting you could want.

Best Budget Friendly Kitesurf Harness

green budget friendly label
2021 Ion Riot 9 - Red
  • Body Materials: Internal EVA Hyper Foam Wrapped In Non-Slip Silicon Covered Neoprene
  • Shell Construction: Elastic HD EVA Molded Frame
  • Lumbar Support: Partly Molded Curv Composite With Flexible Sides
  • Belt: Padded Internal Flex Belt
  • Hook Type: Single Exchangeable Hook
  • Closure Type: Dual Web Straps With PVC Buckles & Tension Bar
  • Leash Attachments: HPL Slider Rear, Left/Right Side Rings
  • Spreader Bar Included: Yes, C-Bar 2.0 With Tension Lever Closure
  • Warranty (years): Dependent On Distributor
What We Like
What We Do Not Like

2020 Ion Riot 9 Harness Review

For kite riders that want a high back, medium flex harness, a good choice is the 2021 Ion Riot 9 model. In fact, it is my pick as the best harness for experts at foiling due to the vast freedom of movement it gives. While some kiters who boost big air prefer a low profile stiff harness, for foiling, a high back is a better choice. Since full back support lets you focus on those ultra tight turns! But the biggest advantage of the Riot 9 is the price, it’s the most affordable kitesurf harness.

If you are wondering what the “9” stands for in the name, it’s the flex rating of the harness. Ions flex index Ranges from 1 to 20, with 1 being soft and flexible up to 20 being hard and rigid. A 9 rating is a little below mid stiffness, which in total equals a supportive and comfortable fit.

First Wear

Fit wise the Riot 9 has the new internal lumbar support construction called “Partly Curv Composite.” This 3-D molded interior locks the harness right up against my entire lower back. While my waist is on the small side (30″), the harness will actually hug my torso. I like that the side plates feel flexible but mold to my body shape.

Inside Ion uses “Hyper Foam” which is a viscous elastic foam that further creates an ergonomic fit. What I notice is that dunking it under water the harness resists soaking up the water. As I swim with it, the harness seems to glide through the water instead of dragging me. Other bonuses of the Riot 9 are its safety features. Including two ways of disconnecting the harness in an emergency. One is a safety catch to disconnect the line or if this fails a built-in safety knife to cut the lines.

Next is the new “C-bar 2.0” spreader bar with the tension lever closure system. Usin it is simple and secure, on the sides it has dual webbing straps and PVC clips that will last for years. The tension lever lets me tighten the harness without dealing with the side buckles. My sequence for tightening is to first set my basic fit with the PVC side buckles. Second, I use the tension lever to make mini adjustments.

Bottom Line:

With a flex index of 9 and the best price out of the bunch, the 2021 Ion Riot 9 is a great hybrid harness. In fact, if you have a small waist and love to use foiling techniques, it’s the perfect pick.

Perfect Hybrid Shell Harness For Free Riding

Sale
Manera Eclipse - Night Blue
  • Body Materials: Gel Foam Padding Under Neoprene
  • Shell Construction: Adaptive Hardshell
  • Lumbar Support: Stiff In Center & Soft At Edges-Adaptive Shell
  • Belt: Velcro Elasticated Belt With Down Hold System
  • Hook Type: Sliding Hook
  • Closure Type: Dual Asymmetrical Straps Click In System With Tuck Flaps
  • Leash Attachments: Rear Slider Bar With Integrated Bar Ends
  • Spreader Bar Included: Yes
  • Warranty (years): Info Not Available
What We Like
What We Do Not Like

Manera Eclipse Harness Review

The Eclipse harness from Manera is their version of a semi-rigid “hard shell” harness. Manera is all about proper support for the back via a lower fit. But without a 100% rigid hard shell, because everyone body shape is unique. Thus, they aim to design a kite harness that strikes a balance between flex and stiffness. To create the balance, the Eclipse focuses stiff support in the middle of the harness. While allowing the outer sections of the shell to contort to the users body shape and any movements.

Manera’s Adaptive Shell

The main design feature of the Eclipse is the ‘Adaptive Shell’ technology. It’s what allows the stiffness to fade from hard in the center area to softer on the edges. Looking at the harness you can see a rigid frame pattern. On first wear I can sort of feel the frame wrapping around my spine. But on the edges it feels pliable which is great for hard turns but still hugs against the shape of my body.

For shape, this harness isn’t as low profile as others but it isn’t considered a high-back style either.

Inside Manera uses gel foam to lower pressure against the torso to achieve a “pillow comfort.” I like that it gives a unique slime feeling that shifts with me as I move. The point of this is to prevent any rash or rubbing discomfort riders can get.

The elastic belt fits snug but it’s a little long for the medium size I tried. Next to help prevent the spreader bar from riding up, the eclipse uses a “Down Hold System.” As I pull these uneven straps they do pull the harness down while staying nice and tight.

For a spreader bar you get a fixed hook which is fine, and a leash tab attached to the spreader bar. It has a little ring on the end for attaching your kite leash too. I prefer a mini-leash for waves or foiling that attaches in front because it’s easy to reach in an emergency. There is also a safety catch line on the back to detach.

Two Disadvantages

For some reason, the Eclipse lacks a leash ring on the safety catch line on the back of the harness. Plus, they don’t include any D-rings on the side of the harness. I like attaching my handle-pass leash to the side of my harness so this is a disappointment.

Verdict:

In total, the Eclipse is a great option if you’re looking for a new alternative to a classic hard-shell. It’s stiff where it needs to be and more forgiving where you need flex. If you add Manera’s sliding spreader bar and a short leash, you get the ideal setup for the wave, foil or free rider.

Top "New" Flexible Harness From Ride Engine

top marks label in blue with yellow check mark
2021 Ride Engine Saber - Slate Grey
  • Body Materials: Internal Fusion Memory Foam Under Neoprene
  • Shell Construction: SES (Structurally Engineered Shell)
  • Lumbar Support: Lumbar Lock Shell
  • Belt: Tight Weave Webbed, Padded Belt With Soft Velcro
  • Hook Type: Sold Separately
  • Closure Type: Unity Ladder-Lock Straps With Lever Closure
  • Leash Attachments: Dual Attachments (Rear Handle Pass & Front Point)
  • Spreader Bar Included: No
  • Warranty (years): 1
What We Like
What We Do Not Like

2021 Ride Engine Saber Harness Review

If you dislike the amount of stiffness in the Carbon Elite, take a peek at the new Saber Series. It’s the flexible version of a classic hard shell harness from Ride Engine. The Saber replaces the older Prime Harness from Ride Engine. It has a sleek minimalist design which is great because my lines won’t snag on it.

The 2021 Saber uses the same inner contour “lumbar lock” on its shell as the Carbon Elite. Where it differs is the shell material, the Saber uses the SES (Structurally Engineered Shell). This is a unique blend of composite moldable materials with computer-aided structural engineering. This new shell enhances the flex properties of a hard-shell harness while retaining superior fit, support and connection.

Doesn’t Ride Up

Putting on the Saber harness for the first time I notice the famous “bear hug” around body. This is the locked-in feeling that makes Ride Engine so popular. This harness is low-profile, on me it sits right between my ribs and hips.

Wrapping over the shell is a sculpted fusion foam that’s comfortable and ergonomic. To secure the harness there is the front belt with thick padding and Velcro. It’s tight but not too much to create pressure points on my lower rib cage.

On top of the foam it has soft neoprene that’s great for riders who wear shorts due to it reducing chafing. As someone who hates fussing with my harness on the beach, it has a d-ring speed lock which is simple to open and close. Other notable features I love are the range of leash attachment points. Either front or back means you have a lot of options.

Another bonus for this new kite harness is the Unity Ladder-Straps, which further reduce spreader bar slip. Trying it out, I notice the bar sits exactly where I want it and the lever closure amazing. In the water the new Saber is super easy swim in, it’s like an extension of my body.

Any Downsides?

The main problem riders find with this brand is that your body shape either fits the harness or it doesn’t. There isn’t any wiggle room with Ride Engine. The second negative is that Ride Engine harnesses don’t include a spreader bar. Although for some riders they prefer this, as they do offer three compatible spreader bars.

In A Nutshell

The new Saber series harness, improves on the older Prime. It’s a great option if you want a classic hard shell that give a bit a flex. The new unity ladder-straps lock you in and it prevents ride up. With the right spreader bar it does an excellent job of spreading the load around your torso.

Finishing Up: The Best Kitesurf Harness

All things considered, you can now make an informed choice for the which kitesurf harness is best for you. Whether you have a long/short torso, are male or female and even if you just want a great deal I’ve got you covered. Remember to focus on comfort, safety features, material quality and fit over looks.

Whichever you choose, thanks for allowing Outdoors Informed help you with your research. We love to research, so spend more time out there ripping it up in the waves.

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Last update on 2021-03-01

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