Start using foot straps and harness

Updated: July 9, 2022

This clinic teaches you how to start getting in the footstraps and the harness while avoiding some of the pitfalls. You will get some tips and tricks on how avoid injury, damage to gear, and what to do once you figured it out. Focus is on ensuring you get one or two key take-aways that will get you started with confidence.

If it is windy, we may do an on-water practice. The core materials will be taught on-land with a simulator.

Key points

Be safe:

  1. In low wind you should be fine practicing harness, but footstraps requires speed so you can step back on the board.
  2. Consider wearing a helmet if you don't feel entirely in control.
  3. Harness you can learn in low wind on a large board; footstraps less so.
  4. As you learn and go to higher wind, migrate to the lightest board you are comfortable sailing. Level 1 boards are hard to get into a plane and footstraps are further back. Importantly, heavy boards don't accelerate as fast as you do, and make "catapulting" more likely.
  5. Learn how to fall. Never let go of the boom.


The thing to avoid is the "catapult". Self-explanatory I think: a gust picks you up and the harness lines pull you off the board. Most likely you will land hard on the boom. We don't want this.

  1. Generally people learn how to use the harness first, before footstraps. You can practice harness in low-wind.
  2. You now have a metal hook on the front of your body. Never land on the board with the hook, as this is very likely to make a hole in the board.
  3. The best location for the harness lines is at the centre of sail power, so you can take both hands off the boom (briefly). When learning you may place them more forward.
  4. A good distance for harness line to boom is the length from your elbow to your wrist. Boom height is also a factor.
  5. The greatest danger is to get pulled off the board by the harness on a gust. The key techniques to avoid this:
    1. Your front foot should be almost straight and forward of your body, taking most of the load.
    2. When you get a gust, stiffen your body core and push into the front foot. Drop your body lower to hang more off the harness.
    3. Be ready to sheet out with your leeward hand (hand away from the mast) if you hit a gust and get overpowered.
    4. If you fall - don't let go of the boom. Honestly.
  6. When first starting to learn: hook in and hook out repeatedly. This gets you comfortable with hooking out quickly and without thinking too much.
  7. Once securely and comfortably in the harness: experiment with moving your hips forward when going upwind, or down to create more leverage on the boom.

Self-study materials:


  1. You don't have to be in the harness to go to the footstraps. You do need speed, and ideally be planing.
  2. Learn on a board that has the footstraps mounted inward, away from the very edge ("rail") of the board.
  3. As you become comfortable with speed and go faster, shuffle your feet backward on the board.
    1. This should happen naturally, as it improves your leverage over the sail.
  4. At some point you will find both your feet right next to footstraps.
  5. Front foot goes in first:
    1. Ensure your back foot is back a bit - not right next to your front foot.
    2. Start with taking the weight off your front foot and putting it back. Do this while sailing a bit more downwind. Once you figured it out, put your front foot in the front footstrap.
    3. Point the board back to the more upwind direction.
    4. Get comfortable. Take the front foot out and back in a few times.
  6. Back foot goes in second:
    1. Head upwind a bit if necessary.
    2. Take the weight off the back foot and put it back down. Your front foot will take all the weight, so shift your body forward as you do this, while sheeting in as needed.
    3. When you figured it out, put your back foot in the strap. Resume your original course.
    4. Get comfortable. Practice getting out and back in the footstraps.
  7. When in the footstraps, you can no longer shuffle your feet to control the forces on the board. Instead:
    1. Push more on the front foot as you get more force in the sail. Keep the front leg almost straight.
    2. Sheet in and out with your leeward (away from the mast) hand.
    3. Drop your body.
Eventually you will want to get out of the footstraps when you drop out of planing. This is because footstraps are back on the board, and when wind drops your weight will start pushing the back of the board down in the water. A big part of efficient sailing is to keep the board flat on the water.

Self-study materials:

Harness and footstraps


About 1-hour, including practice. There will be additional time to practice independently after the clinic.


Please prepare yourself for the clinic with the following:


  • Bring your wetsuit & booties (just in


  • Study the video links above. Review the key points above.

Clinic Agenda

Refer to the key points above.

  1. Introductions - 5 minutes (everyone, at picnic table)
  2. Harness use:
    • Go over harness design - how to wear and adjust
    • Waist versus seat harness
    • Explain the hook-on-board damage. Levels 1 sailors can no longer "flop themselves on the board".
    • Harness line setup:
      • boom at shoulder hight
      • harness line length for easy hook in/out
      • lines at the centre of sail power
    • Start on a big board in low wind.
    • Practice hooking in and out.
    • How to avoid getting pulled off the board.
    • Practice on a simulator (hook in/out, stance, hands off the boom).
  3. Footstraps:
    • You can start on footstraps without the harness, but it is recommended to learn the harness first.
    • How to catapult:
      • You just learned to use the harness and are hooked in.
      • You are eager to get the foots in them straps and got the front foot in.
      • You are on your tippietoes and your back foot is next to your front foot. It is not that windy?
      • A gust comes. You are upright on your toes - you have no time or way to compensate and are pulled forward.
      • CATAPULT.
    • Explain what a "boom bash" is.
    • Go over the foot shuffle back on the board as wind and speed increase.
    • Front foot.
    • Back foot.
    • Tips and tricks: how to handle gusts.
  4. Questions and answers.

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