Windwise coach and Severne Team Rider, Simon Bornhoft, buckles down and takes a close look at your most dependable piece of windsurfing kit, the humble harness line.
Over the next couple of features we’ll cover;
- How did harnesses & harness lines become part of windsurfing?
- How are harness lines actually measured?
- Which type is best for you, your kit choice and style of sailing?
- How to set your harness lines perfectly.
- How and why the Pros might set their harness lines differently.
Connection, unity and power! Being committed in the harness and feeling that raw bond between rig and body, is in the DNA of every windsurfer. We’re all ‘hooked’ on absorbing the transfer of energy, control and stability through a ‘simple’ length of cord. Under extreme tension, our harness lines take the strain, sheet the rig in, reduce fatigue and free the soles of our feet to feel every ripple and our palms to sense every nuance in the wind.
Our dependence on this critical piece of kit is undeniable, but the lines themselves can easily be misplaced. So it’s well worth understanding what’s best for you, how to use them correctly and why you might get conflicting views.
Read on to become harness wise!
A Windsurfing Yarn
Legend has it that the original harness and lines were first developed in Hawaii by Pat Love & Ken Kleid for the Windsurfing Hawaii company around 1974. At the time, this was considered a radical piece of kit that became known as the chest harness. It sported a crooked single ‘hook’ on a square metal plate. It was comparable to a Hobie catamaran ‘trapeze’ harness, but positioned high up in the middle of the chest. Personal choice dictated whether the hook was worn up or down. When a young upstart called ‘Robby Naish’, aged 12 at the time, complained of harness chest pains, Mike Horgan and Larry Stanley crafted what is now known as a ‘spreader bar’ to distribute the load more evenly across the torso. Pretty much from that point on, ‘harnessing’ changed the sport for good, as you didn’t need herculean strength to sail in stronger winds and handle more powerful rigs.
Early harnesses and lines were pretty rudimentary, they looked more like an aquatic waist coat attached to a super wide skipping rope! Don’t go there!
What, No Harness?
Despite the rest of the world being hooked, the 1984 Olympic Games in Los Angeles was on the Windglider and they raced without a harness. Imagine those long course races on a 6.5m sail in a F5-6, full planing and not hooking in! Much to the relief of elbow joints around the world, Olympic windsurfers were allowed harnesses since the Seoul Olympics in 1988 and continue to be sharing the load for the forthcoming iQFoil Olympic class.
Don’t forget Your Harness!
Go on, admit it, who’s lugged their kit down to the shore, started a beach start and forgotten their harness, doh! But you won’t then decide to still head out in a F5 without it. However, legendary Hawaiian wave sailor, Craig Masonville who started Hi-Tech was renowned in the 80’s for full on blasting, jumping and wave sailing on a ‘sinker’ wave board at Hookipa with NO harness at all. He clearly had super powers, he subsequently became a Christian preacher in Maui.
THE SEAT HARNESS
The original solution to crushing chest pains, was to lower the harness hook and Dakine developed the first seat harness in the early 1970’s. For a long while they became the norm, even for wave sailors, but are now more commonly worn by slalom/course racers, speed sailors and flat out Freeriders who love that low locked in feeling.
THE WAIST HARNESS
Whilst many wave sailors were using waist harnesses in the late 70’s early 80’s, it was really only in the early 90’s the recreational windsurfing world started switching from ‘Seat’ to ‘Waist’ harness for general blasting around, freewave and wave sailing. Now they are the most popular style of harness out there, with super comfortable and technically innovative designs such as this Severne Air that feels like it’s part of your body.
Your Harness Line Questions Answered
Q. How are they Measured?
The length of the line is measured from below the buckle, where the line actually starts off the boom. Beware, amazingly, some brands 30” line can be a different length to another brands 30“ line. So don’t just trust the ‘stated’ 30” length, they do vary. Most importantly, get what length is right for YOU, don’t use a 32” line because all your mates or your ‘coach’ uses that length line. Measure them against your own arm as we show you here, rather than just go buy a 28/30/32” line.
These are 30 inch fixed lines end of buckle to end of buckle
Q. Do I need a different length harness line for a seat or waist harness
You’d think that a ‘lower hook position’ on a seat harness would need a much longer harness line, but actually that’s not the case, if anything it’s slightly shorter. Firstly, seat harness sailors generally have their boom slightly lower, but when you’re in a ‘7’ sailing position the upper body is angled out further away from the boom than the hips. So the distance between the ‘low hook’ of a seat harness and a ‘higher’ hook of waist harness is not as you might expect. So if you’re thinking you need a shorter line for a waist harness, you’re wrong, because the aim is to get the upper body comfortably away from the boom. See guide below for all the info.
Q. What should I look for in a great harness line?
A. Durability, Strength, Safety, Easy Fixing & Performance
Durability, Strength & Safety
Especially when you sail a lot, both the harness line rope and the tubing itself may eventually wear or even break. Poorly made lines can do this relatively quickly and there’s nothing more frustrating, dangerous or potentially injury inducing than breaking a harness line when you least expect it.
So, how do you know when your harness line might break if the tubing is coloured and you can’t see the actual rope?
At Severne, we sought to solve this issue by first using extra strong and also by developing an extremely robust thicker walled (2mm) custom extrusion tubing, using high density PU. This lasts longer and is, advantageously, completely clear so that you can see any future wear and tear of the rope inside the tubing.
Harness Line Fixing & Performance
The webbing fixing around the boom is a strong nylon that replaces standard polypropylene for increased UV resistance and minimal wear and tear on the boom. The Velcro adjustment fit any diameter boom, crucially holding the line in place to create a predictable ‘swing’. Our secure line fixings are specifically designed to assist hooking in without looking at the rig and reduce that accidental hook in mid turn.
Get in line
Harness lines; Adjustable, Fixed, Quick Fix
Q. What’s Best Fixed + Quick Fix or Adjustable Lines?
A. This depends a lot on your style of sailing, where you sail and if you switch between different styles of kit.
These are the most commonly used harness lines in the world, simple, easy, plug and play.
Once you know the right length (relative to your arm length), there’s little need to change unless the conditions or your kit style changes.
Pros: No fuss, minimal webbing fixing and we’ve designed them to have a very predictable ‘swing’.
Cons: You have to take the back end off the boom to change the lines.
Commonly Used By: Pros, Freeriders, wave sailors and freestylers.
Quick Fix Lines
These are fixed length line (red fix), but are removable without having to take the back end off the boom, hence being able to loop the webbing around the boom and through the buckle (blue fixing in photo).
Pros: Quickly transfer your lines to another boom or switch over to different length fixed lines on the same boom. Our Severne Quick Fix lines are super easy to loop through a strong buckle with no excess bulky webbing or chance of them coming undone.
Cons: Poor versions can come undone and become a mind-bending challenge to put back on.
Commonly Used By: Freeriders, Wave, Freestylers, Racers and many windsurfing centres with a requirement to speedily switch lines from boom to boom.
Fixed and Quick Fix harness lines.
Adjustable Harness Lines
Decent adjustable lines can be very useful to instantly trim the length by a few cms to suit a different style of sailing, boards or conditions. For example, if you’re using the same boom on a Freeride board with outboard footstrap set up flat water blasting and then you switch to a Freewave/ Freestyle set up, you might want to slightly lengthen the line to give you more freedom of movement with a more upright stance.
Pros: Allows adjustment for different disciplines, conditions and when your partner wants to use your new Enigma boom! Severne adjustable lines also have a lightweight quick and easy release loop to unlock for quick ‘on the fly’ adjustments.
Cons: Avoid heavy metal cleat adjusters, as they often jam or corrode.
Commonly Used By: Racers / Slalom Sailors / Foilers wanting finer adjustments.
Adjustable cam buckle.
When Should You Adjust Your Lines?
In the next part we’ll give you our HarnessWise guide to finding the right length line for you. Whilst this can be kept at a fixed length, here’s when and why you might want to vary your harness length by a few centimeters.
Here’s the Harness Wise summary guide to setting your lines, we’ll develop this in part two and cross reference with what the Pros use and how and why they might differ from what you need. But for now this is a safe easy guide.
Harness line width
Velcro fixings should be approximately a hand width apart.
Go narrower if you like a twitchier more sensitive ‘freestyle / wave’ feel, the fixings can almost be touching.
Go very slightly wider, if you’re completely loaded maxed out speed style sailing and want to neutralize the sail.
Measure them for YOUR arm length!
You can argue all day as to personal line length, but you want them set for the length of YOUR arm.
Don’t ‘copy’ a pro sailor, ‘coach’ or your mate telling you need 30-32-34 inch lines! As we mentioned earlier different brands “32” lines vary, so measure them against your own arm and fine tune to suit your own sailing, kit and conditions.
HOW TO DO IT
Place the very boney tip of your elbow in the apex of the line and tension the line…
Waist Harness Line Length:
The line should be approximately end of elbow to the ‘blister pads’ on your hand – plus or minus 2-3cm depending on personal preference and kit.
Seat Harness Line Length:
The line can be between ‘blister pad’ and ‘thumb pad’ part of palm – plus or minus 2-3cm depending on personal preference and kit.
**Personal taste or your twin might alter this slightly by 2-3cm**
For freeriding make sure your harness is a snug and tight, otherwise it throws out everything!
For wave/ freestyle many loosen the harness to breath and have more freedom, which will effectively lengthen the distance between the boom and your body.
You might go marginally longer when;
- Learning to harness and for easier hooking in.
- Wave & Freestyle sailing for maximum freedom and sailing hooked in OFF the plane.
- You’re over powered and want maximum control with reduced catapults.
- It’s gusty tricky on-off conditions.
- You’re a racer wanting to keep the rig upright for max speed.
- You sail with a high boom.
You might go marginally shorter when;
- Blasting on larger rigs on flatter water and you want that locked in feel.
- You’re constantly ‘coming out of the line in chop‘ (But this is usually due to pulling on your arms too much!).
- You find your hips keep hitting the water.
- You sail with a low boom.
- Windsurf Foiling, where it’s common to have a slightly shorter (1-5cm) harness line to accommodate a more upright stance and when there’s a lighter ‘pull’ from the rig.
So make sure you’re harness line has a strong long lasting rope, a robust clear tubing, secure easy fixings and the perfect swing. All of which has been built into our range of Severne harness lines to make sure the simple things are done really well.
In Part Two of our ‘Hang In There’ feature, we’ll look at what our pro riders use, how they set their lines and how you can set yours for effortless efficient sailing, no matter your experience or style of kit you use.
In the meantime check out feature “Harness lines & boom height” for more intel on getting everything tuned up.
If you have any questions about your harness lines or other aspects of your windsurfing, you can ask your Windwise coach Simon @ email@example.com
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