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As wingfoiling development literally surges forward particularly in the race scene, a new approach is required for harnesses. With plenty of people using an impact vest whilst winging for obvious reasons, it makes sense to combine the two and integrate a spreader bar system into a flak jacket to spread the load across your chest and upper back and make it ultra comfortable, as well as enabling a higher hook position. ION have collaborated with Ronny and Pietro Kiaulehn at Wingman Products, who produce handmade bespoke custom design, to bring a mass-produced version to the market at a more reasonable price point.
First of all let’s focus on its impact protection. In the rear of the jacket is a large oval-shaped EVA shock pad with a tough composite backing which covers the vast majority of your spine. This is removable and resides in a slick-skin neoprene pocket accessible from the inside of the vest. Sewed onto the rear of the vest is also a vertical Curv composite piece which offers more spine protection and allows vertical adjustment of the spreader bar via some Velcro. On the shoulders more EVA foam has been sewn in internally, which makes for a comfortable mast carrying pad. The front of the waistcoat is covered in soft Velcro loops to locate the front pad and a large plastic YKK zipper does a sterling job of closure, along with a final plastic stopper to keep the zip carriage from sliding down. Internally here, a removable composite chest panel fixes in with Velcro, offering further protection around the side of your ribs and helping distribute the load of the spreader bar. This is a small, rounded, board-friendly plastic hook which has two large wing tabs that integrate neatly and securely in to the rear of the harness. Some smooth webbing and buckles attach to each edge of the bar pad and offer easy location and tightening of the system. We found on a higher hook position like this that you didn’t need to go as tight as a traditional waist harness, and that taking a deep breath in and expanding your chest whilst on the final tighten was a good way to find the correct fit.
Once installed for the first time and all the distances on the webbings set, and hook positions fine-tuned, entry and closure is a quick process – simply slide into the jacket, locate the chest plate, do up the zip, hook in the spreader and you’re done. We really enjoyed the ergonomics of having a higher hook position, allowing you to hold plenty of power and hook in and out easily with a shorter harness line on the wing, less likely to slap you in the face whilst pumping.
Usage for racing is an obvious choice, where you can hook in and load up as you blast upwind and alleviate pressure on your arms. We also found it extremely useful in a wave context in an estuary where strong incoming current made riding back upwind to the peak a slog. Hook in and rest your arms, and make a few extra degrees upwind. Also in cold conditions, it alleviated arm pump and maintained decent blood flow to your fingers, as well as the jacket offering increased insulation to your top half over your wetsuit.
The modularity of the spreader bar system allows complete removal, meaning you’re then left with an ultra slimline impact jacket which would be ideal for wave or tow sessions where you don’t necessarily need the float and bulk of a full impact vest, but you’ll still benefit from a decent level of protection from the carbon plates and the EVA pads. Far more broad ranging than a race-specific product, the ION Rush Vest is a practical solution to sore arms, an elegant and slimline impact solution, and will undoubtedly extend your time and confidence on the water.