It’s the season for Big Air, with many professional riders making the pilgrimage to Cape Town for epic wind conditions. Tricks previously thought impossible, like double loops and s-loops, are now the standard for elite riders in competitions such as King of The Air and the Big Air Kite League. Riders are pushing the limits of their gear and nerves each time the wind cranks up and down the coast of South Africa’s Cape.
Beyond the mental fortitude and talent to perform these gravity-defying tricks, having the right gear is essential to staying safe and landing smoothly. Arguably, one of the most important pieces of gear is what connects you to your kite- your harness. Here at Ride Engine, we make an array of harnesses for every kind of rider. While we do not make a Big Air-specific harness, our Big Air team riders have a strong opinion about which harness they prefer for their next nuking session.
Overwhelmingly, our Big Air team riders choose the Elite Carbon. This harness in the unrivaled benchmark in carbon-fiber hard-shell harnesses with an ergonomic shape that delivers ultimate support and comfort.
“I love this harness because it sits tight and where it's supposed to be. It doesn't ride up. Also, I am always sure it is closed, and I know it won't just open while kiting, which is something that has happened to me before with other harnesses,” says Sarah Sadek, a newcomer to our squad of Big Air lady senders and 1st place podium finisher at King of the Lagoon in Egypt.
Zara Hoogenraad, a Big Air Kite League veteran and first-place podium finisher at Full Power Tarifa, also loves the Elite Carbon. “I have a difficult back because my legs are very long, and my upper body is smaller than most people. My abdominals are also shorter, and I have a hollow low back. The Elite Carbon harness works well for me because it is very stiff, and I feel supported no matter how powered I am.”
Comfort is critical for Mike MacDonald, King of the Air rider, Big Air Kite League organizer, and the brains behind Get High with Mike, where he coaches other Big Air riders. “What's so great about the Elite Carbon is it feels comfortable. You will notice anything uncomfortable when riding in super strong conditions with a lot of force going through the harness. I have really comfy sessions and feel very safe with this harness. I also love how it locks securely with the Unity Spreader Bar.”
Beyond a comfortable session, the right harness with the right fit can help prevent injury. “I never realized what a difference a harness would make in my riding till I got on the Elite Carbon,” says Michaela Pilkenton, Naish team rider and 4th in the world at the GKA Big Air Championships. “I've always just kind of gotten by with other harnesses that have been softer. This harness and the Unity Kite Mega Spreader Bar system have kept me from getting hurt. It prevents the spreader bar from rolling, which has saved me from some rib injuries from bad crashes in our gusty Maui conditions.”
"It feels like I'm riding with nothing. It feels like it's connected to my body and flexible, too,” says Elite Carbon fan Jeremy Burlando. Burlando won the 2022 Big Air Kite League Tatajuba Fest competition and had his debut at King of The Air this year. “If I do a grab or a board off, I can easily reach the board without feeling stuck. It's perfectly shaped for my kind of back.”
Two of our team riders, former King of The Air contestants, prefer the Lyte Direct Connection. This lightweight harness utilizes our ingenious Curv® composite material providing high tensile strength to retain Ride Engine’s scientifically designed Lumbar Lock shape.
Ewan Jaspan, is not only an incredible big air rider but an outstanding foiler, park rider, and freestyler, rides in the Lyte because of its versatility. “I like the Lyte harness because I do a lot of different disciplines. I do love the support that a stiffer harness gives me, like the Elite Carbon, but then for things like foiling, wave riding, unhooking, and park I find that it doesn't swivel around my body because it's so shaped to my back. The Lyte is still shaped from my back nicely and gives me good support and more freedom to explore other disciplines requiring a bit more movement.”
Angely Bouillot, the only woman to ride in the current iteration of King of The Air and arguably the most aggressive Big Air female rider, is also in the Lyte. After suffering a back injury, she found that the Lyte gave her the balance she needs for a cozy ride. “I like it because it's strong and light at the same time. It doesn't ride up and crush my ribs. It's perfect for my back problem.”