SKILL LEVEL: High competency (i.e. well above
intermediate) to Advanced. You should be completely self
sufficient in terms of self- launching/landing. You should
have excellent kite skills and know how to read rips/current.
This is a challenging on-shore spot with not a lot of takers
due to conditions. There have been deaths here.
ACCESS: EASY- This is a 3-mile long beach on the west
side of San Francisco. Parking lots at north/south ends
overlook the beach, access via Lower Great Highway in between. Most kiters to be found on northern end in main season. You probably want to kite with other people around.
LAUNCH: Easy…wide open beach in most areas but
be careful of non-kiters. Beach will be narrower south of
Lincoln and earlier in the season. There is not a
specific launch site, so be prepared to self launch/land or
wait for an assist.
WIND DIRECTION: Mostly STRAIGHT onshore during
peak season. If you can’t stay upwind, you won’t get
off the beach. Prevailing wind direction is WNW during
the summer, but can be south-southeast (sideshore) in
storm conditions during winter.
OBSTACLES: Waves *(often significantly larger than it
looks from the beach/parking lot). Crazy rips and side
shore currents which are somewhat unpredictable and
impact apparent wind. Side shore currents usually
flows to the north on a flood and to the south on an
ebb. However, this is not always the case and can be
somewhat unpredictable. Swell direction, swell period, local sandbars, etc. can influence this.Non-kiters on beach. The Seal Rocks create a wind shadow which is more noticeable the more
North there is in the wind direction. This is especially the case when there is a south swell and
lefts are calling (or pushing) you deeper and deeper into
the shadow. If there is an open channel to the Sutro
Baths your board might find its way to the north side of
CURRENTS: If you don’t know how to deal with rips, you
GENERAL ETIQUETTE: With strong
After kite refreshments available along north end of La Playa, Cliff House, Beach Chalet, and
the ends of Judah, Noriega and Taraval. Good, inexpensive burritos/tacos at Chinos Taqueria
on Balboa St @ 35th Ave. Afterwards, warm up by the fire at The Riptide’s happy hour until 7pm
on Taraval St @ 47th Ave.
ENVIRONMENTAL & HABITAT CONCERNS: Wild ocean meets dense urban habitat. Snowy
plover nesting area in one of the most densely populated areas on the coast. Plover area is in
the middle area of the beach and usually doesn’t come into play, but don’t go thunking your kite
down in any dune areas. You’re probably more likely to hit a homeless person than a bird, but
keep it on the main part of the beach.
OB picks up more swell than just about anywhere.
Full situation awareness is required to stay out of other’s way, and as always in a wave zone,
people on waves have priority. Don’t pinch people into shore! If you’re jumping, there are lots of
ramps everywhere, so consider finding an area with few/no people riding waves.
RIGHT OF WAY: Stay out of the way! Right of way rule in the surf zone: stay out of the way of
the person on the wave at all costs. Anticipate their line and stay clear.
Starboard right of way applies out of the surf zone, but give leeway as much as possible, and
signal intent with kite high to go above, low to go below.
First person on wave has priority. Make sure there is not somebody already on the wave before
you turn onto it. When in doubt, kick out.
THE GOOD: Beautiful long beach that’s usually windy from April-Sept
THE BAD: If it’s windy, there’s a pretty good chance it’ll be foggy. As Mark Twain said, “The coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in San Francisco.” And OB demands respect……this
is a dangerous spot that will kick your ass even if you do respect it. Don’t respect it……..pay
the consequences. If there are waves, there will be currents. And there are almost always
LOCAL TIPS: Don’t be afraid to ask questions if you can find other kiters. And you should find
other kiters. Don’t kite this place alone. If you’re new to kiting in the ocean, this isn’t a good spot
HD Webcam and sensor overlooking Balboa, Seal Rocks
Main surf line site, webcam requires premium account. Tide, Swell, Weather
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.
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