When choosing kiteboarding gear, the harness is a good place to start. Why? Because it’s the point where the kite attaches to your body, so you want to make sure it’s comfortable! There are two types of harnesses: waist and seat. (There are a few hybrid harnesses, but we’ll save that for later.)
The waist harness is the most popular type of kiteboarding harness. The major difference between a waist and seat harness is a waist harness moves, which can be both a good and bad thing.
When learning to kiteboard, the kite is often at 12:00 above you and pulls up on the harness. When the kite is flying high in the air, a waist harness tends to rise, often into your ribs (we’ve seen it go higher). This can be very uncomfortable and restrict breathing. All waist harnesses will ride up and unfortunately, the only solution is to keep pushing it down.
But waist harnesses aren’t all bad. As an advanced kiteboarder, riding toe-side or riding blind, the waist harness shifting to one side is an advantage that can allow for a better riding position.
Over the years, I’ve heard some say the waist harness is harder on the lower back although others have reported that the kite pulling on the harness offers a bit of traction that ultimately relieves back strain.
It might be because most of the pro kiteboarders use them. (Though most technical tricks are typically “unhooked” and the harness plays a small role in the maneuver.)
Another theory? Waist harnesses resemble wrestling or boxing title belts. (Well, there is a lot of wrestling going on with the kite afterall). Belts symbolize excellence. Why not look like a champion, right?
Hey man…is your harness on backwards ?
These are the least popular, probably because most seat harnesses look a bit like a diaper. In reality, they can provide better support.
The seat harness is fixed in a lower position that shifts the pull from your hips rather than your lower back. (This style of harness is more akin to a rock climbing harness with leg straps that keep the harness from rising up.)
As a beginner, you have the kite high. With a seat harness, this isn’t a problem since it’s locked in place. As an advanced rider, the seat harness can be limiting since it doesn’t move as freely. Riding toeside or blind is more difficult because the chicken loop is across your body.
Still fear the diaper? Not to worry. There are now seat harnesses built into shorts like ION B2 and Dakine Nitrous that will keep that baby look at bay.
When I started kiteboarding, I had a flimsy Naish seat harness then quickly moved to a Dakine Fusion seat harness around 2001.
Eventually I graduated to a waist harness so I could go pro ;) This helped my kiteboarding in certain areas so I continued to wear a waist harness…even after my first “classic” kiting rib injury.
It was a windy day at The Gut in Stratford, Connecticut over 10 years ago. I was flying a Best Yarga 9m C-Kite and I crashed during a backroll kiteloop.
Wearing an old Prolimit waist harness with no spreader bar pad? Ouch! After healing, I returned to kiting and continued to improve…until the next hard crash. Reinjured again.
Fast forward 5 years (and several more crashes and reinjuries), I finally switched to a seat harness (the Dakine Nitrous shorts). Voila! This solved my rib issues. No longer could the harness ride up to my ribs and cause damage.
It took some time to get used to the lower pulling point but I was able to return to most of my maneuvers (though I was limited by the fact that the harness sat at a fixed point in the center of my body). I struggled with body position for wave riding (especially toeside) and also with freestyle moves, like riding blind.
Having the chicken loop wrap across the body can put you in poor riding position. So I began experimenting with putting a rope on the spreader bar to allow the chicken loop to slide freely. This allowed me to find a better body position for riding strapless on my surfboard.
Finally, I got a Dynabar--a complete game changer! The Dynabar is a sliding spreader bar that attaches to your harness and allows the chicken loop to travel from hip to hip. I use the metal wave bar, which gives me confidence when boosting big air, but still allows me to ride blind and in better positions on waves.
[Note: I have since switched to the ION B2 harness since it’s a bit more substantial than the Dakine Nitrous.]
So that’s my harness history. Every kiter will have his or her own. It’s a personal choice and chances are, your needs will change over the years (as will the equipment). I am available for a consultation to discuss your particular harness needs, ask me!
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