Miriam Rasmussen: a fan of both race seat and waist harnesses | Photo: Carter/PWA

It's a classic question: should I get a waist or seat harness? What are the advantages and disadvantages of both models, and when should we use one over the other?

You can't get planing at high speed on your windsurfer without foot straps and a harness. Speed racers know difficult it is to control the rig in 50-knot plus wind conditions.

Harnesses allow you to counterbalance the power of the wind on your sail. Deciding on the type of harness is more than a matter of personal choice. It is also a negotiation between your favorite benefits and your worst drawbacks.

The majority of professional windsurfing prefer a waist harness for wave sailing and free riding, and a seat - or even a waist - harness for speed, slalom, and free race; women with hourglass figures should ride a seat harness.

Miriam Rasmussen lives in Norway, and she says that her fellow slalom racers use seat harnesses. She tried other options, including a waist harness, but she struggled to get used to it.

"I just couldn't get used to the fact that the harness changed position when I sail - moving up and down and from side to side. I've tried different kinds of seat harnesses: from the lush, generously upholstered heavy varieties, to the spartan, race seats," explains Rasmussen, who uses Unifiber harnesses.

"In principle, they all offer the same, precise, body-weight-powered, downward thrust into your rig. and I appreciated this, especially when sailing large, heavy slalom rigs."

Race seat harnesses can be tricky especially when wearing a bikini. Recently, the Nordic sailor tried a waist model with an even bigger sail, and noticed that her "center of gravity is placed lower, thereby gave me better leverage to avoid the rig lifting me up."

Steve Thorp: he grew up with a seat harness, but he is now sailing with a waist model | Photo: RedSurfBus

Steve Thorp is one of the fastest windsurfers in the United Kingdom. The sailor from Leicester also rides for Unifiber, and he grew up in slalom lake mode, and he always used a seat harness.

But when he switched to waves and freestyle, the Englishman opted for a waist harness.

"When I returned to speed and slalom I tried a seat harness again but found it hard to get on with after using the waist harness for so long. So, I now just use a waist harness for everything," reveals Thorp.

Steve believes that there are many advantages of using waist harnesses for speed sailing. He speaks of more confidence and handling power.

"You spend your whole time sailing very overpowered and, with a waist harness, I find I can manage the power much easier. If I get lifted by a gust, it's easier to sheet out and stand slightly more upright over the board - or sheet in and drop my backside further outboard as it's not tied to the rig."

But Steve Thorp leaves an important note: a seat harness can be more efficient with heavy windsurfers because it allows them to apply more mast foot pressure when needed, and get their head and upper bodies slightly further outboard.

Matt Pritchard says that the waist harness brings many advantages. "The first is that you look way cooler! When you get hit with big gusts, the harness moves up rather than picking you up and throwing you over the bars."

The US pro windsurfer also considers the fact that, with a waist harness, "the hook sits up about three or four inches higher than a seat harness," and therefore a longer harness line length allows you to bend the knees, and use your body weight to get low, while easily generating mast foot pressure.

Discover the best windsurfing harnesses in the world.