created on: 2011-11-18
At the end of August kitetrail made a stop in San Francisco. We knew there would be good kiting in the bay area as west and northwest winds (thermals and storm fronts) provide many windy days from March to October. We also knew that the water would be much colder in the bay (can get as cold as 8 °C (46 °F) so we rented 4/3 long wetsuits and booties from Boardsports. I found this good preparation for the cold water I would soon encounter back home in Switzerland.
We went to Crissy Field one windy afternoon, which is by far the most scenic place to kitesurf in the bay, situated between the Golden Gate Bridge and Alcatraz. We met a kitesurfer who was pumping up his 10m kite on the beach. He was well equipped wearing a dry suit, helmet, and a radio inside a water proof pouch to be used in case he needs to call the coast guard for a rescue. He explained to us the challenges kiters encounter at this spot from wind shadows from the bridge, strong currents leading out to sea, heavy boat traffic including giant oil tankers. He advised that you should only attempt to kite at this location if you have at least five years experience and carry a radio as most of the guys who kite there have had to be rescued by the coast guard. We decided it was best to find a better spot to kite in the bay! He suggested try 3rd Avenue, a spot in San Mateo that is known have more constant wind and would also be easier to launch.
Since we were not keen to get rescued by the coast guard we tried our luck at 3rd avenue a few days later. The spot looked great with a large open space to set up your kite and launch. This spot does get very crowded on a windy day making for a lot of traffic on the water. The main entry point to the water is small and can get congested with kiters entering and exiting the water. Also, the area is very muddy and slippery but if you are a bit careful it’s no big deal.
The wind must have been around 17 knots, Kelly and I planned on using the 8 and 9 meter kite. I left the valve for my nine meter kite at home so I had to fly the 12 meter kite instead. The 8 meter was just right for Kelly but I was quite a bit overpowered with the 12 but had fun anyways.
I learned the winds are usually quite strong throughout the bay and the locals typically fly kites smaller than 12 meters. Depending on the wind you can choose between a few different spots. Kelly recently went kitesurfing at Sherman Island, where the Sacramento River is wide and slow and the Delta breezes blow fiercely across the island. She enjoyed kiting here as the air and water is warmer compared to the bay. Winds do tend to blow directly onshore at the main spot and the narrow entry point to the water is surrounded by bushes requiring kiters to push upwind immediately or risk crashing into the bushes. Another good spot especially for beginners is the beach in Alameda.
Aside from kitesurfing, I enjoyed exploring San Francisco with my local guide. Kelly has lived in the city for over eight years and was able to show me many special, less known spots in addition to the major tourist attractions like Alcatraz, Fisherman’s Wharf, and the Golden Gate Bridge. We spent time at Mission, Dolores & Golden Gate Park, relaxed in great coffee shops, ate at fantastic burrito shops, explored the different neighborhoods, went wine tasting in Sonoma Valley, visited Half Moon Bay (home of Mavericks), and lots more. She told me there is so much she didn’t get to show me and I wish I could have spent more time there. I hope to return again soon and explore more of what this great city has to offer. I found San Francisco to be a beautiful city with a great atmosphere, diversity, laid back locals, and best of all ... lots of wind.
I had so much fun showing you around my favorite city and kiting in the bay! XXX
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