SITE: ALAMEDA (The launch site is technically part of Robert W. Crown Memorial State Beach)
SEASON: March – August but is best early in the season from March – May.
Gentle conditions, relatively shallow water, few obstacles, onshore winds and two miles of downwind beach makes Alameda the only Bay Area location that is usually pretty beginner friendly. That’s not to say that advanced kiters don’t love this spot as well, but Alameda is the undisputed launching pad for most of the areas new kiters—and for good reason.
The growing number of kiters using Alameda Beach, however, and a fatal launch accident in 2017 have forced local riders and the park system to develop and enforce better kiter guidelines to preserve kiter access to the beach. Please read and follow the recommendations below, as irresponsible behavior threatens restrictions on kiting at this great location.
SKILL LEVEL: BEGINNER+ As mentioned above, this is the place to go if you’re learning to kite or want to experience the world class winds of the SF Bay without worrying about killer sharks and currents. While Alameda is the friendliest beach once in the water, the launch area is tight, complicated and crowded, so understanding how to safely navigate the narrow point of entry and exit is key. We highly recommend you spend some time hanging out at the beach talking with the locals and watching the conditions at Alameda or any spot really to get the lay of the land before heading out . During the spring season Alameda is generally pretty good when everywhere else is cranking. Just be careful as there are dangerous days it says it will be high teens and all of the sudden it’s blowing 30. If you’re learning and took out a 12m you can get yourself, and maybe others, in trouble. There was a fatal accident in 2017 that resulted from such a situation and has forced local riders and the park system to develop and enforce better kiter guidelines to preserve kiter access to the beach. Please read and follow the recommendations below, as irresponsible behavior threatens restrictions on kiting at this great location.
ACCESS: MODERATE Crown Beach Memorial Park, Intersection of Westline Dr and Otis Dr, Alameda, 94501 For GPS, punch in 600 Westline Dr, Alameda 94501 and park in the southern-most section of the lot. The rigging and launch area borders the lot so it’s easy to get your gear to the beach. While Alameda is technically not difficult to reach, traffic can make the route in-and-out a bit sluggish if you live outside Alameda, so plan accordingly.
LAUNCH: MODERATE The Park District allows kite launching and landing from ONLY TWO locations on the the long beach: at The Shack (aka Boardsports California shop https://boardsportscalifornia.com/) and at Shell Gate Beach (at the end of Shell Gate Road), a few hundreds yards southeast of the Shack. You may be cited if you launch in non-designated areas. The rigging and launch areas at the northwestern section of the beach are clearly designated on a board at the Shack (see image ‘Alameda Kiteboarding Guidelines’). Alameda can see up to 150 kiters on a good day, so it is critical to respect protocol in order to maintain a safe, sane launch and landing.
As noted above, while Alameda is a beginner’s paradise, but launching and landing requires extreme caution, as shifting winds and numerous obstacles (the Shack, benches, poles, lamp posts, Bay Trail pedestrians) create dangerous hazards. Pump your kite in the set up area and before moving your kite into the launch area, get all your equipment on and ready to go—wet suit on, harness on, helmet on, and board down by the water. Only when that is done, move the kite into the launch area, toward the water, run and attach your lines, (we run our lines downwind from the kite but at a 90 degree angle from the kite, toward the bike path, in line with the wind window) launch and go, picking up the board as you head to the water keeping the kite low! Do not “rig” in the set up area. Another word of warning for Alameda: always check the wind direction just before launching regardless of wether or not you have already been out that day. The wind can and does shift up to 45 degrees, sometimes within minutes, which can make for some really overpowered launches if people are not careful.
Also, Boardsports has a Kite Ambassador program for the Shack launch area, so if see someone on the beach with a neon green/yellow hat on, they are assisting launching/landing to keep the launch area clear and moving. Please follow their directions. Again: always place your board near the water before launching, launch with your kite toward the water and don’t bring it to 12 after launch.
Keep your kite ‘Low and Go!’
The site has a nice patch of grass for rigging and storage (noted as ‘Kite Inflation Area’ in the image), fresh water, showers, bathrooms and immediate access to equipment to rent or buy. The Shack is also a watering hole for a welcoming crowd of locals. The regular crowds gathered here means you will almost always have someone to help launch and land your kite.
Due to severe and ongoing beach erosion, there is a sharp drop-off between the beach and the launch area. In low tides, there is plenty of room to rig, launch and land on the beach and you should do so whenever conditions allow. During higher tides, landing can be somewhat complicated and you might have to stand on the beach as you lower your kite down to the landing area—over the drop off! Given the number of obstacles and potentially gusty conditions, we recommend that you land your kite in the landing area while standing on the beach. Always ask for assistance in landing. Never land or launch your kite across the bike path, behind the Shack or in the set up area across the bike path. Once your kite is down, please immediately wrap your lines and move your kite out of the launch/land area, even if you are going out again in a “few minutes”. The launch/land area simply cannot accommodate the number of kites in use on a busy, windy day.
WIND DIRECTION: ONSHORE & SIDESHORE Winds vary seasonally, but Alameda tends to be at its best in Spring, when winds regularly hit 20+ mph coming from the W-NW. At this time of year, you can experience some great flat water kiting near the point of Ballena Bay. The wind at the point is clean and the water flat, but if you venture too far north of the point, you enter what locals call ‘The Toilet Bowl’—a wind shadow that can drop your kite. Also, resist the temptation to enter the harbor there, as you will certainly irk the harbor master, the owners of Boardsports and the Park District. If you do find yourself northwest of the shack near Ballena Harbor, do not enter the little cove that is in the corner, Crab Cove. This is a protected area and is demarcated by a small concrete jetty on the beach.
During the Summer, winds tend to be more mild (12-15 mph) and come from the W-SW. As the winds shift, the swell building from the 12 miles of southern bay waters can collide with swell coming from the west to create bathwater chop—bouncy peaks of chop colliding from different directions.
OBSTACLES: Once in the water, there are only a few fixed, but important, concerns a few hundred yards off Crown Beach. Two concrete intake/output grates (usually marked by flags or buoys) that feed and drain the lagoon are exposed during negative tides. From low to medium tides stay well clear of the buoys that mark the grates. During low tide, do not go between the buoys as there are piles of rocks that you could hit. Please familiarize yourself with where this line of underwater rocks and concrete is before going out.
CURRENTS: NEGLIGIBLE Currents are not a major concern in Alameda or in the South Bay in general. If you plan to venture far away from shore, however, check tides and carry a VHF marine radio.
To request on-water assistance by VHF radio, use Channel 16 to report an incident to the Coast Guard.
TIDES: The size of the beach varies dramatically based on tides. In a low tide, it is possible to launch and land on the beach, and this is the preferred area to launch and land when available, as there are far fewer kiters and obstacles on the beach. Due to the shallow shores off Alameda, negative tides can create a long walk from the beach of up to 300 yards through sandy mud. Be aware of holes and soft-spots as you walk out on low/negative tide days.
AMENITIES: TOILETS, SHOWERS, & WATER There is fresh water, bathrooms, showers, changing rooms, a kite shop and kite instructions at the site.
ENVIRONMENTAL & HABITAT CONCERNS: MINIMAL Stay out of Crab Cove at the most northwestern corner of the beach; Stay out of the bird sanctuary to the south past the McDonalds.
GENERAL ETIQUETTE Please leave your kite lines rolled up until ready for use; Please keep unused kites stacked up and clear of the launching zone; Be helpful to others and take responsibility for public safety; Stay a Minimum of 200 ft. from shore while kiting; Keep at least 2 kite line lengths between yourself, swimmers, waders, and beach goers Please be considerate and mindful of those using this public beach; ‘Kite in hand when you hit the sand.’ For the safety of beach goers, DO NOT walk up the beach with your kite in the air! Roll your lines up and walk up the beach with kite in hand if you end up downwind. Help to maintain a great place to enjoy this sport in the future!
RIGHT OF WAY: CLICK HERE to read general Kiteboarding Right of Way Rules . In general, the outgoing kiter has the right of way due to the unpredictability of shoreline winds. So yield the right of way to the kiter leaving the beach. Thereafter, standard right of way rules apply: the kiter on a starboard tack (right hand and shoulder forwards) has right of way; The kiter on a port tack (left hand and shoulder forwards) must yield right of way (get out the way, pass downwind); For two kiters on the same tack, the kiteboarder upwind must give way to the kitesurfer downwind; When on the same tack, downwind sailor has right of way; Right of way does not mean you can veer up or down wind; While passing, MAINTAIN YOUR COURSE!! While passing another kiter who is down wind of you, fly your kite high; if you are the down wind kiter, fly your kite low; KEEP CLEAR OF ALL BEACH GOERS, KAYAKS, SUP’ers, BOATS, SWIMMERS, AND WADERS. THEY ALWAYS HAVE RIGHT OF WAY; Jumpers revoke their right of way. Jumpers, always be sure that you have a minimum of 3-4 kite lengths downwind of you before jumping. Also, check in front and behind you to make sure no one is heading into your jump zone.
LOCAL TIPS: Get the flat water near the tip at Ballena Bay (but do not enter the harbor!); On busy days, escape the mess upwind; After kiting, taste the best Pho in Alameda: Sidestreet Pho (http://www.sidestreetpho.com/) Check out the bars and restaurants on Webster and Park Streets.
Tides and Currents (https://tidesandcurrents.noaa.gov/stationhome.html?id=9414750)
Park Website (https://www.ebparks.org/parks/crown_beach/)
San Francisco Boardsailing Association
Protecting and enhancing kiteboarding and windsurfing access and safety since 1985
The SFBA does important behind the scenes work in the Bay Area to keep access to our local kite beaches open for our use. Without them we would not be able to kite in a lot of Bay Area locations.
Please join the mailing list and become a member today.