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Matt's Monday #14: Riding LONG Lines

Feb 22, 2010

The results are in!!!!

With almost 200 votes it looks like most people are using either a 26” line or a 28” line! That is great news in my opinion... some years ago, a lot of people were really pushing the short lines saying this was the way to go.

I have highly disagreed with that theory every since it became popular, and it looks like you guys are getting back into longer lines. For those of you using the super short lines, don’t be offended. A lot of you have shorter arms and reasons for sailing short lines and I’m good with that. My objective here is to open everyone’s minds to the advantages vs. disadvantages of different harness line lengths.

The Right Length?

When trying to figure out what line length is best for you, a good start is to put your elbow inside of the line and make sure you can put your open hand under the arm of the boom.  This gets you close and you can fine tune from there. Some people have short arms and long legs, some have long arms, short legs—basically we all are different but the main objective is to get comfortable and efficient. I believe that longer lines fit that bill! Here is why...

Ross Williams

ABOVE PHOTO: Here is a shot of my buddy Ross Williams. This mast mount shot was taken by John Carter and it shows his boom is at chin height, his lines are 30” long, his arms are extended, his knees are ready to bend if he hits a piece of chop and the mast is pretty upright and vertical. A perfect stance!!

Why I Recommend long lines:

The best angle of attack for your rig is to be as upright as possible. This is one of the reasons why the bigger and taller you are the faster you are! Your height allows you to be more upright. The shorter you are, the harder it is to keep your rig upright. If you run short lines, you tend to pull the rig over to windward, which closes off the power zone in the sail and is not as efficient. What I mean by closing off the power zone is that when the rig is raked too far over to windward, you are hiding the sail from the wind. You are not letting the sail pull you how it wants to. With the rig upright, the wind can hit that power zone and propel you forward efficiently. An efficient sailor can use a smaller sized sail than a lighter person and get planing more quickly and easily.

Another reason I am a fan of longer lines is because I am a lazy sailor. I like to be in my harness lines all the time. With my 30” lines, I can sail around in my harness when there is no wind… I couldn’t do that with a 24” line. I can go through the surf in my harness when the wind is light. As soon as I jump on my board, the first thing I do is hook in! When the wind backs off or I run into a lull, I don’t have to unhook to stay balanced on my board!

Boom height also plays a big part in proper harness line length. The shorter you are the lower you may want your boom. I prescribe a boom height that is between shoulder and chin height when you are standing on the board.  If your boom is lower than that, you may be compensating for too short of harness lines! Pay attention to that next time you are on the water! The problem with having your boom set really low is that you can’t control the top part of the sail as easily. This is a great recipe for the infamous Catapult!!!!! 

The other factor involved is sailing stance.  A lot of people talk about getting yourself into number-7 position.  I totally agree with this position in flat water and when your harness lines are dialed in perfectly.  However, when you run into a big gust, you need to be able to adjust to the wind. Basically you need to be able to keep your rig steady and not allow it to move around. Longer lines allow you to do this—and keep the lucky number-7 stance. You can stick your butt out and still keep the sail upright when you get overpowered and need to adjust for large chop! That is our goal, keeping the sail steady and staying in control.

As a general guideline, I think most people over 5’9” should be using a 28 or larger length line. Bigger dudes over 6’2” should be using a 30” or longer. For the average sailor between 5’4” and 5’8” I suggest either a 24” or 26” line. For those of you 5’3” and down, you should be good with 22” or 20”s... just be aware of keeping your rig as vertical as possible!

If you are unsure of the perfect line length, it might be time to experiment. I suggest getting an adjustable set of lines and playing with them to dial in your perfect setting. Once you have that established, get yourself a fixed length line and stick with it! Right below Dakine Comp Adjust. Harness Linesis a link to some of the best adjustable lines out there- you can actually adjust them while you are sailing and hooked in!

If you don’t have a nearby shop, let me know and I can get you set up!


Next week we are going to talk about getting the right position of your lines on the boom—probably one of the most important aspects of windsurfing. I have some great tips for you to get it right!






Three-Time World Champion, Matt Pritchard is sponsored by Gaastra Sails, Tabou Boards, Da Kine, Kaenon Polarized and Camaro Wetsuits. Matt Does Private Lessons on Maui as well as several clinics throughout the year in different locations. If you have any comments or suggestions, you can contact Matt by email:



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