Information about San Francisco Bay Area kiteboarding locations and guidelines.
If you're like me, you're stoked that the waves and wind are beginning to fire up on the coast. Or...you are just getting into wave sailing and thinking that now is a good time to get dialed in. Either way, I've been at Waddell the last couple weekends and feel that a refresher may be necessary for fun times to be had by all.
Just a few tips to have a good time at places like Waddell. I will use Waddell as the location here but it applies to all wave spots.
This can be argued over and over but the general rules of the road are different in the ocean. It is more of a surfers right of way than a kiters right of way. Kiters are there to catch waves...that's it. There are often limited set waves and when a rider works hard to get one, you don't want to be the guy/gal who messes it up for them.
1. The rider closest to the peak has the right of way no matter what tack you are on. I will repeat this in different formats as it seems to be the main issue.
2. When heading off the beach (starboard tack) at Waddell, you need to keep your eyes pealed for incoming wave riders. If someone is infront of a wave and upwind of you (north) they are likely going to make a bottom turn and head down the line (covering a lot of downwind territory as they go. If you are standing on the beach ready to go out, it is best to let the set go by and let the riders get their waves, then make a pass at going out. Keep your kite over the beach so as not to have it in the way of wave riders. If you can slip out downwind of a wave rider give them more than an entire line length of room downwind. It is yoru responsibility to stay way out of the way of the wave rider...go way downwind and work your way back upwind on the outside.
3. When riding a wave: Look upwind. If someone else is on the wave, get off. This means if you are on the wave and someone else is closer to the peak, give them the wave (pull out the back). It's the same as surfing. The guy closest to the peak has the wave. Don't milk it and then get off when they get close...you inhibit their ability to work their kite down the line and you make the wave section out ahead of them.
4. Never take a wave from the outgoing tack (chicken jibe) unless there is noone anywher near that wave. (I had this happen to me three times at Waddell this weekend and the second time resulted in wrapped kites and the third, I actually had to give up my wave to avoid wrapped kites.)
5. If you've never kited Waddell, do as I have seen a few wave newbs do and spend some time watching the rotation and catching kites. You will really learn a lot about kiting there and earn good graces from the local crew.
These are the main points I feel are quite important to safe and fun wave riding. If anyone has anything to add, please do so. For many, it is a long drive and to have your session ruined b/c someone didn't know what they were doing and your kite wound up in the drink just sucks. Riders at places like Waddell have good memories and it's not a place you really want to be noticed.
sometimes Gary Bronson...
Thanks for the post. Well written, and posts like your's are important because without them, how would people know the rules of the "road". I wouldn't, for one. Being mostly a Bay and sometimes Delta rider, the points you mention are for the most part, not something I'm familiar with.
Ollie, no problem!
I just got to thinking. The guys who dropped in on me (chicken jibed the wave) I know and am friendly with and have never had a single issue with in the bay. When it first happened, I was a little pissed. When it happened again, I was a bit more pissed but still having a good time. I figured when I wrapped kites with one of the riders that he probably figured out that the way things were going were not working out. Later and then today, I thought about it and realized that there is no way these guys were intentionally snaking me and putting us both in a sketchy situation. It dawned on me that they may just not know any better. These guys have been around too, just not a whole lot in the waves. So I figured, people are going to migrate to the waves and we might as well use this forum to make sure everyone knows how the game works down there so that everyone can have a good time.
Many riders in the bay are quite good. Just remember that no matter how good you are, when you get to the waves, there is a system to wave riding. Those who have a lot of experience in the waves are going to catch a lot of waves and make it look easy. Those who don't may get a couple waves but will also get in the way a lot...it's natural and acceptable as long as riders take responsibility and try to learn how it works. It took me years to figure out how things work at Waddell and it wasn't really until this year that I felt comfortable mixing it up. Until then, I did my best to stay out of the way and if I was at Waddel, I did my best to stay downwind and out of the way. I practiced a lot in some not so crowded waves. Just remember that on the coast (especially SC), it is all about catching waves and if you are not their to do that, there are quite a few other places you could be.
Ask questions...there really are no stupid ones if it means you are not going to be noticed when you do show up.
It just boils down to not being noticed. Nobody in SC desires to be seen. They are there to enjoy the waves. That should be everyones goal when riding the coast.
sometimes Gary Bronson...
Very good information. I was planning on going to Waddel some time in the future (for the first time) and this is very helpful since I have never been on a surfboard before so those rules are completely foreign to me. What is the average kite size for Waddell this time of the year if you don't mind my asking?
Also you can hit Scotts creek to practice...that is of course if others aren't there too. Especially dudes with goatees.
Yep, to date I haven't been much of a wave rider, but I know that it's a totally different game riding waves, especially in the SC locales. It's a core scene and people are there for a singular reason. In the Bay and Delta, things are different and there's a lot more leeway as far as right of way rules and protocol. It's highly unlikely that anyone would go kite there and intentionally get in someone else's way or snake their waves. They just aren't fully aware of the rhythm and rhyme of wave riding.
I'd love to come down, I just need to make the time! Hard to do when you don't have it though. I can find balance in my personal, work and kiting life, but it's hard to find full days to break away to play...
I know the feeling, Ollie. The cool thing about kiting is that you can squeeze it in at the end of the day, or in the morning (not me!). I think I got 15 days of skiing in last winter, but I've gotten almost 60 sessions of kiting this summer -- most of them after 5 pm. You're so close to the water, you've probably gotten double that this year.
Very good question actually which brings up another good point about Waddel. The wind is thicker out at the coast. It may feel like it's only blowing about 20 but you will notice that most riders are on 6m and 7m in that kind of wind. When it's light at Waddel, you ride a 12m - 16m...there are days like that. Most of the time you ride a 7m or 10m.
The thing about Waddel is that we are all working to get a piece of a limited resource (waves). If you go out over powered and are flying with your kite high all the time, then you take up too much room and cannot quickly manuever your kite to get out of the way or ride a wave.
It's just another good reason to watch for a little while before you go out at Waddel. You will likely see small kites, moving a lot. That's how it is done in the waves...most use a wave style board that plains up a bit better than your standard twin tip and a smaller kite to get the most out of wave riding.
Another tip: When reaching out and upwind (starboard), you may find that there are people coming in and really pinching upwind at you. These people are usaually trying with everything they have to get upwind to get the most out of their wave. If you are on the way outside, by all means, hold your right of way. If you are closer to the inside, give up your right of way so that they can get above the peak before the wave starts to break.
Again, you will see this whole system and every detail I am describing if you watch from the parking lot for a half an hour and it really is not all that complicated. The system is unspoken but it is in place and helps to keep a smooth rotation going.
sometimes Gary Bronson...
Waddel wave sessions are a dream come true for me. I've only been out there a dozen times in the past year, but I've gotten to know and or recognize the regulars. I give right of way to them because they are always in the right spot. I try to watch, study and learn from these guys. The only time I'm on a set wave mid beach at Waddel is early, when the wind is building or late, when most people have pulled off the water. Mid-afternoon gets pretty intense and I try to stay up or down wind of the peak, but occassionally will get in on the backside of the rotation to watch as the crew tears apart the sets.
-P.S. I witnessed Gabe teaching a wave a serious lesson on Sunday.
This is a really good thread, and the instructions are clear and well-written. Since I think this information is more of a "timeless" nature (rather than a temporary thread), I recommend this thread be made "sticky" and appear at the top with the other important instructional notices.
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