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If you go to 3rd Ave, go at low tide. That way if you miss the lower launch you can hit the safety release and self rescue to one of the small beaches further down. If things go wrong it's pretty easy to drift past the lower launch and getting out of the water at high tide can be pretty tricky.
This is great! Thanks for the insight. I hadn't heard much about Bodega or Toll Plaza (at all either). It's does seem like the general consensus is unless I'm ok with a potential "rude awakening" I'm about a step away from riding 3rd. In the meantime Ill definitely look into a downwinder at Sherman and check out more regarding Bodega and Toll Plaza.
Between Bodega and Toll Plaza, does any prefer one over the other? Thanks again.
Bodega and the Toll Plaza (general Berkeley/Albany area) tend to be windy on different weather patterns. Unless you're the master of your own schedule, you may need to pick one over another in terms of where it's windy and/or a good match for your kite size(s).
Having good wind reporting/forecasting tools will help point you to locations for sessions appropriate for your equipment and skill level. I use iKitesurf.com, but there are other free sites available too. I believe there have been threads on people's favorite wind reporting and forecasting sites here on BAK...
Before doing the downwinder at Sherman, make sure you get someone at Sherman to explain the landing. You have to walk along a narrow trail with your kite in the air. Walk the path beforehand (without kite) so you understand what you'll need to do.
And have fun a couple more sessions and you'll be asking how to get bigger air
Keith is right - it's a good call to check the landing at any new spot *before* you've got you kite in the air and need to get it down.
As for Sherman, you can also launch/land at the front "beach", right at the water. That's what I do, because I think the wind is steadier there (less bushes and stuff to create turbulence) and the water is just that much closer, so there's less time for something to go amiss with your kite in the air. There are some pieces of carpet there to pump up your kite and attach your lines.
There are usually kite-savvy spectators sitting there who you can ask for a landing when you come off the water. But it's a good idea to look at the other launch/landing zone (near the parking lot), just in case there isn't someone at the front beach to land you when you come in. Ask someone or just go hang out there and you'll see the setup. Some people might look at you funny when you ask about launching/landing at the front beach - ignore them and know you're doing the safest thing possible.
I'm about one step ahead of you, just started getting upwind, and hit up Bodega for the first time last weekend. It's very gusty and I'm not sure I can recommend the downwinder method that is posted in the location information here on the forums. There's a recent thread about doing that method though and you can judge for yourself based on their experience. It's also a two hour drive so you've got to be confident that the wind will be blowing and you'll have the right kite size. My 9m was just on the cusp of being too big.
As for toll plaza, I think this is a pretty reasonable spot to work on advancing your skills without too much chance of trashing your kite. The winds here are similar to Alameda but seem to be a notch stronger, and you got to go where the wind is. KGB teaches here and it can get crowded once more than two kites are in the air and not heading straight out. The winds are mostly onshore so you'll want to walk as far out into the bay as you can with your kite in the air and then tack back and forth trying to stay up(wind). The walk of shame here is to walk back out into the bay when you get close to the beach. If you're still dropping your kite often, it's not the best place since you'll often have students and other kiters directly downwind of you. Always look every which way around you before water starting regardless of location but this is a tight spot.
If Alameda is dead, go to toll plaza, if that's dead, go to 3rd. If you can get to Bodega, try it out, but I'd stick to the main launch on a lighter day, and take a similar approach as you would at toll plaza, walk out a ways to get downwind space. You can probably handle 3rd but DON'T miss the lower launch for more time out, it's not worth it and my kite has the scars to prove it. Once you get past the point with the white flag, keep your kite high and quickly moving between 11 and 1 so it doesn't drop from the sky in the wind shadow.
Perfect. I called Nat to set up a downwinder earlier today. Just waiting to hear back. When I go up there, I'll for sure walk the path kiteless and check the alternate landing/launching areas beforehand. Great idea.
In the meantime, Toll Plaza sounds beginner friendly enough. Assuming there's more wind there than Alameda that'll probably be my next stop. And, after a session or two 3rd it is.
Really solid info thank you all!
I don't want to sound selfish, or like a wet blanket, because I recently started going to the Toll Plaza and I'm enjoying it for a variety of reasons. And I realize that beginners/novices need a comfortable place to develop their skills. But if the Toll Plaza becomes the hot new "easy" spot, I think there may be problems. The beach there is spacious, but it's not Alameda-spacious. Once you get outside and staying upwind, there's lots of room, but the shallow area in front of the beach is rather limited, and it's almost always taken up by students and teachers from the KGB school. Even one kite smack in the middle of this zone can create a substantial obstacle. If you're going downwind, you will inevitably end up in this area. Imagine five or six or more kites converging on an area that's maybe the width of a football field, and already containing a few flying-but-non-moving kites, or maybe a kite or two in the water, and you get the picture.
I say go to Third after Alameda--it tends to have the best wind. That's what I did as a beginner, when I couldn't yet ride on my left, let alone ride upwind. I had a few mishaps, including releasing *all* my gear one time (long story), but my kite never ended up on the rocks. I came in over rocks a few times, but self-rescued prior to that occurring. (If you're not solid on self-rescue, you should be going to Alameda and practicing until you have it down cold). Best of all, there are almost always lots of people around who are ready to jump in and help if they see you struggling. I received great help every time I had a problem.
If your almost there go to 3rd after your downwinder at SI. Winds are much more reliable, making progression quicker. East bay spots are great but the wind can be harder to call, and change quickly. Plus at 3rd there's a lot more support.
Yeah, I gotta agree that 3rd should be your next stop ASAP. My personal progression was:
1. Have fun at Alameda until I could get up and ride
2. Master self rescue at Alameda
3. One Sherman Island downwinder
4. Have a blast at 3rd Ave
The big difference about 3rd is that there is almost always enough wind to be fully powered up. And without full power, you really can't feel what upwind feels like. A nice big beach is critical for learning how to get up and self rescue, but solid wind is what you really need to progress.
And honestly, 3rd Ave really isn't dangerous as long as:
- you can launch your kite with no problem
- you can self rescue while standing in the mud in waist deep water
- you wear booties, in case you have to walk in over something sharp
My understanding is that you'll even be safe if you wash up down by the bridge. Apparently the bike trail goes all the way over there - I once spoke to a guy who came in over there. If that happens, high chance of damaging your gear, but you'll probably make it home in one piece.
My advice is to show up at 3rd one day and get someone to walk you through the spot. When you are there seeing people kite, I think it's pretty straightforward to be able to see if you will feel safe or not. Go on a weekday when there are fewer kiters out, you'll have more room to crash and figure things out
PM me if you want to meet in the early afternoon at 3rd and I am happy to share what I know, as a recent beginner.
If you can, you should go today! There will great wind and tons of people... good opportunity to walk the whole site and spend a day observing.
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