Beginners Perspective – Harness Lines

This is my second post on what I consider to be three critical break through skills needed to advance and expand my windsurfing range.

Once I gained proficiency with basic windsurfing/sailing skills including as discussed in my first break through post the Beach Start the next big step was understanding how to effectively use harness lines. It looks kind of easy, simply hook in and lean back, but I’m afraid not!

Harness lines open up so many options, most importantly the ability to bring a board onto plane and transition from sailing to windsurfing. As with all three break through skills as you learn to effectively engage your harness lines you will learn far more than simply committing to your harness lines and these new skills will carry you to a new level of challenges and most importantly FUN!

Purchasing the right Harness! So many skills needed but it all begins with the right harness and for that you really need to try on and possibly test a number of harnesses. I use an ION waist harness. This is my third harness – 1st was a Dakine, good but I wanted more back support as I progressed. My 2nd was an ION which broke after a few months and my 3rd is a newer ION harness which is very comfortable and really supports my lower back and really makes it much easier to sail in gusty conditions.

Commit! As a beginner we sail by controlling the boom and sail via our hands and arm strength to counter balance the power of the sail and move the board in a straight line but as the wind and your speed increase you don’t have the strength in your arms or hands to manage the power generated by the sail. Harness lines engage the big muscles in your legs, hips and back as well as your weight to manage the power of the sail but you have to commit and that for me and I believe for most beginners is the tricky part.

My first two years in the sport, I primarily used a long board i.e. Kona One. Long boards are very forgiving but also limit your speed and the types of conditions you will probably encounter. (Long boards in choppy conditions aren’t a great deal of fun due to the size and weight of the board.) Long boards are a great platform to learn to use harness lines but these skills don’t exactly transition to a short board. Short boards are far less forgiving and demand greater skills from the sailor. For me the challenge was the increased speed and chop. You want to go faster and have more control but this requires more wind which means chop in most locations and you must, must commit to the harness lines and really limit the use of your hands and arms!

If you are learning to use your harness lines and you find that as your speed and the chop increase you are bouncing out of your harness lines it is due to one simple reason, you aren’t committing to the harness lines!

How do I learn to commit? Time on the water of course but one great resource you can use is to setup a simulator. Last year I was really struggling with my board position and committing to my harness lines when I came across GetWindsurfing‘s simulator videos on YouTube. Phil demonstrates how easy it is to setup a simulator so I gave it a try and oh my was that an eye opening experience. I had it all screwed up!

The simulator made it very clear that I wasn’t using my harness lines correctly, wrong position, too long, etc. but just as importantly after finding a better balanced position I could now hang off the boom via the harness lines and be in a correct windsurfing position. For the first time I could feel what it was like to really commit to the harness lines and let go of the boom. You can feel the mast pressure, test different positions, all while staying committed to your harness lines. That is really hard to do on the water but a simulator provides great feedback and your standing still! Seriously if you are learning to use harness lines or bouncing out of your harness lines setup a simulator. It is easy and really helpful. Thanks Phil and Danielle!

One year later: Now I’ve become comfortable using harness lines and it has become second nature to hook in and use the harness lines to connect with the boom, sail, mast and board. It has to all be in sync but getting to that point requires that one must learn to limit your use of your hands and arms and commit to the harness lines and that is hard, at least it was for me!

I’m now free to test myself in harder and faster conditions. Climbing upwind is so much easier and my time on the water is much more enjoyable due to the fact that I have greater control with much less effort.

What I’ve learned is there is no universal setup. You are always making adjustments depending on conditions, sail size, board and also how you feel that day. It is amazing what a couple of centimeters forward or backwards of the harness lines can do for your setup. I don’t really adjust the length of my harness lines but instead prefer to move the boom up and down for different conditions.

Time on the water of course but don’t be afraid to tweak your setup and try new positions. Setup a simulator and hang from the boom via your harness and let go! You will be amazed how it feels! Good luck and see you on the water!

2 Comments on “Commit!

  1. Pingback: Carve Jibe – Putting it all together | Tampa Bay Windsurfing

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