Information about San Francisco Bay Area kiteboarding locations and guidelines.
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- Crissy Field
Crissy Field is a world-class sailing, windsurfing, and kitesurfing site, but is definitely not for beginner kitesurfers. The extremely unpredictable gusty winds (5 mph to 45 mph) makes kiting here very challenging and is best left to the experts. Crissy can be a very dangerous place to launch. The wind is side-offshore and the currents are extremely strong. You must excel in up wind and jibing ability, be knowledgeable of ebb, flood, counter currents, and excellent swimming ability is a prerequisite for kiting here. Also, no matter how warm the day, the cold water and strong currents demand a full wetsuit all year long. Windsurf traffic, cargo tanker traffic and general boat traffic can be quite heavy - so keep your eyes open.
To keep kite access at Crissy Field open to all of us, you need to pay attention to what's happening both on and off the beach. Windsurfers have been here for a long time, and kiters need to respect their territory. Generally, launch up wind of the windsurfers and head toward the north tower of the Golden Gate Bridge. The beach is almost always packed with people with small children and dogs. THEY ALWAYS HAVE RIGHT OF WAY. Do not launch if people, especially small kids are in the immediate vicinity. DO NOT FLY YOUR KITE ABOVE PEOPLES HEADS. One accident is all it will take to put access to Crissy Field in jeopardy. Trust me; you don't want to be the kiter who screwed up Crissy Field for the rest of us. Launch your kite and get off the beach ASAP.
Most kiters park at the end of the parking lot (end closest to the GG). Rigging on the lawn is OK. Once you go to the beach, the wind can be very light on the beach but nuking on the outside. Rigging the right kite size is imperative. Think nuking outside rather than mellow inside. Also, the wind can die on the inside, so make sure you are a VERY GOOD SWIMMER. The best place to launch is on the west side (GG side) of the lagoon (less people and upwind of the windsurfers).
The wind can be very light on the beach. Keeping the kite in the air can be challenging, and luffing into the air is a major concern. Also, your kite can fall out of the sky as winds drop to zero. Hence, be aware of people and get off the beach ASAP. Stick close to the beach until you are comfortable enough to head out the GG Bridge. Self-rescue at Crissy is very challenging. You typically are not washed towards the beach, but rather currents take you either out towards the GG Bridge or towards Alkatraz Island. Being rescued by the Coast Guard or a passing by sailboat is common at Crissy Field, but kiters must understand that these options are not always close by and the water at Crissy is VERY COLD.
Seriously, if your are new to kitesurfing, come and enjoy the view and meet the people at Crissy Field, but wait until you are more experienced before you venture out. Oh, and don't fly your trainer kite over peoples heads at Crissy Field, go down to the Marina Green (near Safeway), where you will have more room and there is typically less people and better winds.
I am new to kiteboarding, and had a question about the launch area at Crissy Fields. It seems like the kiteboarders tend to launch at different times than the windsurfers (it seems rare that both are going at the same time - there is some mixing, but on average there seem to be some governance over who is going at what time). Is it that conditions vary and kiteboarders are looking for somethign different than windsurfers (if so, what?)?, or is it that there are implicit or explicit rules for who can go out when?
Your help would be greatly appreciated. Would not want to commit a faux pas when I am good enough to go out there
The best wind direction is West or West North West. A WSW flow usually is solid, but When the wind blows South West, that is when the wind shuts down at the beach and a wind shadow can extend past Anita Rock. A typical summertime fog pattern is a classic example of a South West direction. As posted before the wind shifts direction even while your having a great time miles away from shore, So pay attention to the strength of the Wind, Current and Traffic. Best to go out on a moderate Ebb. It can be very bumpy AKA Psycho Chop. When coming back from your session HIt the Gas! with respect and control of others. The views will be eternally burned into your memory!!!
Last edited by salthouse on Thu Jan 26, 2012 4:53 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Enjoying Crissy Field Kiteboarding
Welcome to Crissy Field: Thank you for familiarizing yourself with Crissy kiting protocol so we can all be safe and have a great time. At Crissy we count on each other to be responsible and support one-another.
About Crissy: Crissy Field is a world-class sailing, windsurfing and kitesurfing area for experienced riders. Gusty winds and strong currents can make kiting here both challenging and dangerous. The wind is side-offshore and the launch can be tricky, with winds often fluky/light on the inside.
Kiters should excel… in upwind and jibing ability, be knowledgeable of ebb, flood and counter currents, and be strong swimmers. A full wetsuit year-round is a must! Because the wind can be light on the beach but nuking on the outside, rig the right size kite for the outside. If unsure of something, ask for assistance or advice from other riders; your actions are important to everyone, especially if they have to put themselves at risk to rescue you or help retrieve your gear!
Beach Goers – We share the parking, promenade and beach with families, tourists and dog walkers. They always have the right of way. Please ensure you set‐up/launch away from crowds and children.
Windsurfers – Are well established at Crissy. Kiters generally launch upwind of the windsurfers and head toward the north tower.
Kites on the Beach – Remember to put sand on your kite to avoid a runaway, and quickly roll up lines to avoid crossing someone else. Once launched, move to the water quickly; please don’t stand on the beach with your kite in the air.
While On the Bay
The Inside – From Anita Rock to the beach… it’s generally lighter in here and not great kiting unless it’s a strong NW day. You can usually swim in from here.
Anita Rock to the Channel – The span where the wind picks up and fills in. You are closer to the swimmable zone yet not in the channel.
Fort Point/South Tower – The topography and the Fort there make for a wind shadow that moves around the tower base, which can drop your kite. Give the South Tower a wide berth.
Presidio Shoal – On the inside upwind of Crissy. Holey and light, kites often drop here.
North Tower – Smooth butter just outside.
Shipping Channel – You probably want to spend the least time here, and be very alert!
Last Chance Beach – Or the stairs before the St Francis Yacht Club, both downwind of Crissy, are usually an easy shot if you miss Anita or even swim from inside Anita.
Commercial Ship Traffic
• Right‐of‐Way ‐ Always give commercial traffic the right‐of‐way. This means not crossing
their bow, or kiting between a tug and its barge under tow. USCG Rule 9 places the
obligation on us, the small vessel operator, to avoid impeding the large vessel.. see
• Be Alert and Anticipate ‐ Allow more than enough time and space for a large vessel to
see that you are moving out of their path. Make early and clear movements for them to
confidently note your intentions.
• Monitor ‐ VHF Ch 14, which commercial vessels use to communicate with Vessel Traffic
Service (VTS). If you are in the water with broken gear and a ship is bearing down,
contact the ship’s Master on the bridge of the vessel via Ch 14 as early as possible.
Self Rescue Tips
• Buddy System ‐ Use the buddy system and stay within in sight of the pack.
• Taco Pronto ‐ Know how to taco/self rescue; never jettison your gear and swim for it.
• Be Visible ‐ Always keep your kite inflated until you are rescued by a boat.
• Swimming with Kite ‐ If the wind shifts offshore, flip your kite on its back and clip your
leash to the pump attachment point, so you can swim parallel to the wind and current.
• Inside Anita ‐ If you drop your kite inside the Anita Rock marker, swim for it.
• Light wind on the Inside ‐ If it’s light on the inside, take a few tacks out and recon the
wind line to find a way back home.
• Returning ‐ On good days, coming in high (upwind of Anita) is fine, on most days ripping
across the wind may be best, but sometimes going low is the only (and counterintuitive)
• Flood Tide ‐ If you miss Last Chance Beach, stay out away from the piers downwind.
• Fort Point – Fort Point (South Tower) is not a rescue option, unless you’re familiar with
it and the tide is low with the small clearing visible between the rocks.
Coast Guard Etiquette
• Personal Safety Equipment ‐ Consider carrying a VHF radio and a strobe light. Use
Channel 16 to report an incident to the Coast Guard or to request on‐water assistance.
• Mark Your Gear ‐ With your name and phone number. If you lose anything, report it to
Coast Guard Station Golden Gate at (415) 331‐8247 to avoid a search and rescue
operation. We don’t want the Coast Guard searching for you if you are safely on land.
To contact the Coast Guard Sector San Francisco Command Center, which manages onwater
emergencies Area‐Wide, call (415) 399‐3451.
San Francisco Boardsailing Association (SFBA)
• SFBA ‐ Was originally formed to protect access to Crissy Field. Since its founding in
1986, SFBA has focused on protecting and enhancing access to windsurfing and
kiteboarding areas, and promoting safety for our members. These two missions are
inextricably linked, because public perception of hazards from unsafe sailing behaviors
represents one of the greatest threats to maintaining public access.
• To Contribute – Help SFBA help you! Go to “SFBA.org” to join or contribute!
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