For best results a waist harness should fit around the smallest part of your waist. You want it snug against your skin, the bottom at your hips and the top under your ribs. To ensure it is in the right place the spreader bar will align with your belly button when you secure the harness. To further confirm you have the right size harness, pay attention to the length of overlap. Tighten to at least a 1 to 1-1/2 inch (5.08 cm) overlap of the belt end and where your bar lines up.
Also keep in mind to strap the harness down tight. As the kite lifts the first time, it will pull the harness away from the body. During this motion it loosens the harness a bit, so it’s best to over tighten than not enough. A tight-fitting harness prevents chest ride-up, which is very uncomfortable and dangerous out on the water.
Seat Harness Fitment:
Instead of fitting in the waist area like the previous style, a seat harness fits around the hips. It also uses leg straps to help keep the harness stay in place. You should ensure the harness is tight against your lower back with the straps snug on your uppermost thighs. Keep in mind the size of your thighs as certain leg straps cause discomfort due to their position. No one wants groin pain while riding!
What is a waist harness?
A waist harness is the most common type of kitesurfing/kiteboarding harness. The design comes in either hard shell or soft shell materials, with the latter being an older material. Hard shell waist harnesses are the modern solution to advanced lumbar support.
Riders who prefer this style classify themselves as big wave and freestyle riders. It’s the easiest style to get into and out of since the hook sits higher on your body. The downside of a hard shell is its only best for riders with experience who have athletic body types. This is because riders primarily use their abs to help control movements.
Pro’s of a waist harness
- The biggest reason many riders wear a waist harness is because it looks cool. It’s less bulky, with fewer straps and comes in colorful designs. This reason alone is why most people choose to wear them over seat harnesses.
- Since a waist harness is often less bulky it tends to be more comfortable for athletic riders than seat harnesses. As well the lack of leg straps provide greater range of motion when wearing one. Plus several waist harnesses now have sliding spreader bars. Which increases comfort, because it allows the harness to shift from right to left as a body turns.
Forces Correct Posture:
- The best advantage of a waist harness is that it forces new riders to learn and maintain correct posture. Meaning the harness will make a new rider push their hips forward while hanging their head back. Doing this leads to comfortable, controlled riding. Whereas if the rider doesn’t do this and attempts to sit down on the harness it will ride up around the armpits.
Easier Upwind Riding:
- Another benefit to wearing a waist harness is the ease of kiting upwind. A waist harness shifts around your body a bit so that you can easily turn to face the sailing direction. As a result you can always turn with a relaxed body position when sailing upwind.
Cons of a waist harness
Not Great With Life Jackets:
- Due to where a waist harness sits on your body, it is hard to find a compatible fitting life jacket. As a result when out in water that requires a life jacket or are a newbie you will have to compromise your comfort.
- As mentioned earlier, if a waist harness becomes loose it can ride up your body. This is common among novices with poor form or fly the kite a lot in the 12 o’clock position of a wind window. Not only does this look ridiculous but it is super uncomfortable.
Pain In The Butt:
- Another problem with where a waist harness sits (higher on your body than a seat harness) is butt/back pain. Say the harness slips out of optimal position, your lower back has to withstand muscle strain. Overtime this leads to chronic lower back pain. Thus, people susceptible to lower back issues often prefer seat harnesses.
Limited Waist Fit:
- Do you often fluctuate in weight around your stomach area? If so, understand that a perfect fitment with a waist harness may be difficult. If you lose weight the harness can become loose and slip up a lot. Or if you experience weight gain/bloat or even have a big belly, a waist harness may not even fit. Under no circumstance should you ever over-size this style of harness. Trying to wear it loose at the belly button will allow it to create that dreaded “Wonderbra” effect.
What’s a seat harness?
The top priorities for beginners to kite sports is comfort and support. This is why many kite surf/kiteboarding lessons use the seat harness.
A seat harness is exactly like it sounds, it surrounds the hips/lower waist and uses leg straps. It has soft yet durable material which looks like a pair of bulky shorts with straps and a hook.
With this harness you will use the strength of your legs and hips instead of your abs to help control your movements.
This combination means it has a lower hook, thus there is a lower pull point of the kite. Having the leg straps the harness can’t slide up, this is helpful when the kite slips overhead. As a result a seat harness feels more comfortable and stable for people learning to kite surf.
Another bonus for a seat harness is it is easier to learn “body dragging” and water starts. Two critical techniques for newbies to learn. As well, since a seat harness sits lower than the waist harness it provides great lower back support.
Riders who are learning, prefer boosting and free-riding or have back issues tend to pick the seat harness.
Pro’s for a seat harness
Sits Lower On Your Body:
- The spreader bar for this design, sits lower on the waist. Its exact position is at your natural center of gravity. In theory this makes it easier for a rider to crank the kite while also resisting with your entire body weight. This movement provides super high boosting up in the air capabilities.
Leg Straps Prevent “Ride-up”:
- As mentioned before, having leg straps prevents slippage up the body. This is very important for beginners who need to focus on technique instead of poor comfort.
- A seat harness is larger than a waist style so it “hugs” more of your body when worn. So it gives more support, which again is crucial for newcomers and back problem suffers.
Better Lower Back Support:
- Like its name suggests, a seat harness allows a kiteboarder to sit on it. The rider can rely on their leg strength and hips to control the kite. Due to the harness fitting tight around the hip and lower back muscles with a low hook point. Controlling the kite at a lower point is what transfers the pull forces to the hips instead of the waist/back area. Another type of rider that is an excellent candidate for seat harnesses are heavy set people. With a seat harness the force distribution is equal through the legs which helps to stabilize the back too.
Cons for a seat harness
- Younger riders claim the worst disadvantage of a seat harness is how it looks. Many riders will compare the look of a seat harness to a chunky diaper.
- Unlike the waist harness, a seat harness isn’t meant to move while worn. Plus the leg straps restrict free movement of your legs. While it’s good for beginners and basic cruising. Riders who want to try tricks, this harness becomes limited in use fast.
Promotes Lazy Form:
- The major problem with a seat harness is that over time riders develop poor riding form. By this I mean this harness allows you to sit on the power of the kite instead of counter balancing it by leaning out. Eventually riders adopt a “toilet” stance (bum stuck out and legs heavily bent). This stance may seem easier and safer to control the power but in reality it is dangerous. Because the first gust of wind or pounding wave will send you crashing over the front of the board.
Possible Groin Discomfort:
- Alright, so this issue is for male riders. Sometimes a leg strap can wrap around the groin, leading to painful consequences. This often happens while boosting big airs. Nothing is worse than experiencing this at in a position where you can’t make adjustments.
By now you know which harness style is right for you. If you are a newbie, have back issues or big bodied go for a seat harness. Once you progress to riding upwind and want to start hitting big tricks graduate to a waist harness.
On last thing to mention, if you hate the look of seat harnesses, there’s now a range of board short harnesses. These are simply seat harnesses stitched into board shorts! The appearance of these are much cooler looking with premier back support too.
As always, thank you for allowing Outdoors Informed to help you with your research. We love doing it, so you can spend more time out boosting big air!