How to Choose a Kiteboarding Harness
Choosing a kiteboarding harness can be a very daunting task. With so many makes and models out there it can be hard to figure out which harness is right for you. Harnesses come in a variety of styles within two main categories, seat harnesses and waist harnesses.
Seat harnesses are the preferred style for most kiteboarding schools and beginner riders. Seat harnesses have leg straps that keep the harness in place around your waist without riding up your body. This is especially important for beginners who are spending a lot of time with the kite above them in a neutral position. Additionally seat harnesses generally sit lower on your body than a waist harness would. This puts the spreader bar a few inches below your belly button and can greatly reduce lower back fatigue. Seat harnesses are also a great option for foilboarding since the harness gives the you a "seat" to sit in when riding for extended periods of time.
Waist harnesses sit higher on the body than seat harnesses do, which typically puts the spreader bar right over your belly button. This position, and the lack of leg straps frees up the lower half of your body giving you more flexibility which is especially nice for board grabs and other tricks.
Padding and Stiffness:
Within the two main types of harnesses there are a variety of different stiffnesses which give you a significantly different feel and contributes to the amount of support that the harness gives. Softer harnesses are more flexible and generally more comfortable to wear than harder harnesses, but don't provide the support that you may want for longer sessions and more powered up riding. Harder harnesses offer more support but need to fit more precisely to your body to be comfortable.
The profile of a harness is the area that it covers on your back and would be measured vertically on the back of the harness. Some harnesses have quite a large profile, while others are relatively small. Hard shell harnesses tend to have a smaller profile because they offer support through an extremely stiff outer shell, while softer harnesses tend to have a larger profile to evenly spread out the load of the kite across your back. While it is mostly your preference on which is more comfortable the profile of the harness should fit inline with your body type as well as the type of riding you like. Typically the more active you are in the air the more likely you are to prefer a lower profile harness.