How to Windsurf – Lesson 4 – Harness and Footstraps


The two techniques that comprise the intermediate level of windsurfing are using the harness lines and sailing in the foot-straps. Both should be approached separately but they kind of complement each other so I decided to put them in a single article.

Usually the harness is taught first as it allows us to have longer sessions on the water and therefore progress more. The foot-straps become relevant as soon as we start to pick up speed and/or start to sail in choppy water or waves.


The harness is pointless if the harness lines are set up incorrectly, so let’s start with that. The correct position of the harness lines is when we don’t have to use any hands on the boom when are hooked in. The sails pressure point is somewhere around half a metre from the mast at around head height. This means that the harness lines should be positioned so that the harness line clips on the boom are at the same distance on either side of the position perpendicular to this point.

To hook into the harness it is very important that we are already used to sailing in the correct windsurfing position. This mainly means windsurfing with a stretched body: the front foot, knee, hips and shoulder all in a straight line. The reason is that this is the position we will be in when hooking in (and ideally when we are sailing hooked in) and if we are not comfortable, using the harness can be quite unpleasant and will take much getting used to. Awkward sailing in the harness will result in not relying on the harness to hold the sail and not laying back and relieving the arms.

Sailing in the harness is basically making sure that we do not use our hands to hold the sail. The only thing we do with our hands is make corrections to the sail position as we are sailing. Important to note is that we move the sail forward or backwards to change the position of the sails pressure point relative to the board. Aside from that we must remember to only pull with one hand or the other either to close the sail (back hand) or to open it (front hand). Pulling with both hands will most likely result in hooking out.

As I just mentioned, to hook out of the harness line, all we have to do is pull both arms towards us and gravity will make the harness line fall out of the hook.


The purpose of the foot-straps is to keep the board connected to our feet (when jumping) or to help us stay on the board (in choppy water, gusty winds or just plain sailing with heaps of power in the sail). However, since the position of the footstraps is far towards the aft of the board, and us being initially used to sailing with our feet further forward, using the footstraps is a tricky thing to learn as it means we must shift our body position.

The best procedure in learning how to windsurf with foot-straps is to use a board with no foot-straps and progressively moving our feet to the back of the board and adjusting our body position accordingly at each stage until we are able to sail comfortably with the feet in the position where the footstraps would be. Only then do I suggest screwing on the footstraps and practicing getting into them.

Now comes the getting in to the footstraps. On flat water it is easier to get into the front strap first as we can keep the weight ont the back foot and already have a little stability there before we put the back one in. However, in waves or choppy water I always recommend going for the back strap first as it is the one that stops us from doing tha catapult. The front foot is the pivot point during a catapult and therefore having only this foot in the strap is practically useless.

The best thing is to concentrate on each of these techniques separately and not to try and learn them both at the same time.

Leave a Reply