ION RIOT KITESURFING HARNESS 2022 Review - Worthing Watersports
Written by Marcus Stewart (shop assistant and local very experienced kitesurfer)

My personal preference is a waist harness for kite and windsurfing.  I have never tried a Hardshell harness having used chest, waist, seat (nappy) in their soft form for forty years.  Working in Worthing Watersports and selling harnesses to customers I thought I should put my own money where my mouth is and give a Hardshell a try.  Other than the weight issue with travelling I was completely happy with the existing soft-shell harness I was using so was sceptical that a Hardshell would make any difference to me.

For those that just want to know what the Riot Curve was like, well it was completely forgettable – and that is a good thing!  I put the harness on and then did not think about it for the entire session.  Nothing dug in, no compression on my hips or ribs, no feeling that I needed to push it down or re-adjust it. It did not slip and just moved with me.  The harness just blended into the background and did the job it was designed for.  In short it is amazing! 


So here’s the detail…. The 2022 Ion Hardshell harnesses are made from a composite plastic with a carbon composite spreader bar.  The bar comes with a kite or windsurf hook depending on the intended use.  The Riot is the kite harness but is the same shell as the Icon windsurfing harnesses the difference is in the handlepass loop and hook shape.  The bar is also convertible to a webbing slider for those that prefer that like me.  There is a video on the Ion YouTube channel on how to fit the webbing. They come in different stiffnesses, higher being stiffer, from the team edition at 18 to the Apex at 8.  The Riot is a stiff harness at 14. 


Now here’s the science bit… Ion offer two sizes of shell for each size of harness either standard or tall.  The size you need depends on the length of your back.  You now select the harness by the size of your waist then measure the length of your spine from the top of your T shirt to the small of your back to get the correct shell size for you.  For example, I am 6’ and 33” waist so needed a medium harness in the tall version (MT).  There is a tape measure with a guide on it in the shop or we can send you one.  In addition within the harness there are removable pads that sit against your spine. These follow the curve of your spine but crucially also have a channel down them that means there is no direct pressure on the vertebrae – the pressure is to the muscles either side of the spine. 


So what else did I notice about this harness?  Well there is little so soak up the water so unlike my existing harness it has not gained significant weight when wet and has dried out quicker – much better for travelling.  The spreader bar also has wings at each end that insert into the sides of the harness to prevent the bar twisting up in use.  The webbing straps run through carbon buckles that are much easier to use than the ladderlocks I have used for many years.  However once set the harness does not need to be adjusted – I simple used the quick release on the bar which closed with a very positive “click.”  I was surprised as I’d set the harness up while wearing a T shirt then went out in a 5mm suit and yet the harness was a perfect fit.  


The slider is made from a webbing used in climbing.  I fitted the metal ring as my chicken loop is not the Duotone rope slider version.  I also fitted the Dynema rope loop as this allows me to lock off the webbing if I fancy a bit of non slider action when I use my TT. The point of a slider is to allow a greater range of movement as the chicken loop can slide across your body allowing you to open up more.  I prefer this on a surfboard or foil and notice it most when I am toe side.  In use the webbing and ring slid very smoothly; I have been using a spreader bar with dyneema rope and have noticed that with age the rope sticks and the movement is jerky across the rope.  The webbing was a definite improvement.  


The harness has a built-in line cutter and handy tool with a crosshead and torx bit.  This fits the bolts on the rear of the slider.  The handle pass loop is removable and there is a metal ring on the webbing to attach a kite leash keeping the quick release to the front of you where you need it if you ever have to eject.  My only concern with this ring is that it stands proud and could knock against your board when carrying it – I will keep an eye out for this. My only other concern with the harness is that the material surrounding the Hardshell and covering the foam while beautifully soft is prone to catching – you need to be careful not to catch the Velcro of the internal belt on it.  


All in all this makes for the most comfortable harness that I have ever used.  If you have been considering a new harness for Kitesurfing (or the Icon for Windsurfing) then this harness is worthy of your consideration!




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