(aka, ‘Albany Beach’ or ‘Dog beach’ or ‘The Albany Bulb’—It is technically part of McLaughlin Eastshore State Park)
BEST WIND METER:
Site 411 Contact: Andrew Sullivan
The site is generally known as ‘Racetrack’ due to it’s location directly behind the Golden Gate Fields horse racing track in Albany. Due to the hard work of the SFBA and others, kiting and other board sports are formally recognized activities at this beach. In order to ensure continued support for kiting and board sports at this location, however, it is imperative that you follow the safety guidelines outlined. If you have any questions not covered here, don’t hesitate to contact the site 411 listed above.
SKILL LEVEL: INTERMEDIATE+
Gilman: The site can be accessed from either the Albany/Buchanan Street exit or the Gilman Street exit off 580. Access to the beach is always open from the Gilman Street side but, during race hours, you’ll have to ask the parking attendant to waive your fee because you’re simply visiting the beach and not using their lot to attend races. Most often, they will let you in. When the racetrack is not in operation, simply drive north along the waterfront, up and over the clubhouse hill and down to the beach. Park near the beach but do not park in the middle of the lot and block the access that the truckers need to drop their trailers in the lot. Many people park their cars in the middle of the lot to self launch. This irks the racetrack security and truck drivers, as it blocks the routes of the trucks hauling hay. Please be aware of where you park and avoid blocking truck paths. No one wants a war with the racetrack, as the parking lot is their property and they can restrict access any time they please.
Buchanan: If entering via Buchanan, you’ll need to enter through the racetrack parking lot, drive through the lot and through the gate by the water and park next to the beach. The Buchanan gate is not always open, however. You can generally count on it being open Tuesday – Sunday during business hours and you might have to ask for free entrance to visit the beach or simply pay the $5-$1 (Sunday) parking fee (note: the Gilman entrance is $10).
The main launch area for Albany Beach is the Open Use Area designated above. The launch here has a number of hazards and requires advanced self launch and landing skills, a keen attention to fluctuations in wind and the ability to fly your kite with one hand. The Bay Trail has an 18” sand wall that you must step over when walking to and from the beach. You can also use the pedestrian access path from the parking lot, but this increases your chances of co-mingling with pedestrians. It’s always advisable to take a quick look at the water to check wind lines before launch: you don’t want to launch right before a lull hits the beach. There are a number of permanent self-launch assistants installed at the site to accommodate launching in various conditions. The most common method of self-launch and landing is by attaching a leash with carabiner clips to an anchor (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3wslhh8Jr7Q).
There was special consideration made for kiters in the design of the beach and, under the right wind conditions and when pedestrians are not occupying the area, you can also launch and land on the southern tip of the beach.
During construction of the Bay Trail, locals began launching from the beaches at Fleming point (you an see the old pier pylons extending from the point in the photo below). There are benefits and drawbacks to these locations: The wind-line is usually much cleaner at these points and you forego much of the upwind work to reach Albany Point, Brooks Channel and the Olympic Circle. The beaches are significantly smaller, however, and the beach to the north of Fleming point has a couple of obstacles that are buried under higher tides. While foiling from the beach to the south is fine, do not foil from the beach to the north. Bike traffic also comes down the hill from the clubhouse at high speeds, so keep your kite out of traffic lines when launching
Because ALL launch areas at this site require navigating hazards to reach the beach, we recommend you place your board on the beach before launching to simplify your trip to the water. The safety maxim ‘keep it low and go!’ DOES NOT apply here. The unsteady winds in the launch zone favor keeping your kite high and fly, feathering as needed. With the abundance of pedestrians and unpredictable sculptures on the beach, low lines and kites pose a risk. Because of the number of obstacles, pedestrians and swirling winds, it is critical to check and test releases, lines, launch leashes, etc. before launch.
WIND DIRECTION: ONSHORE
TIDES: HIGH TIDES REDUCE ABILITY TO LAUNCH AND LAND ON BEACH
ENVIRONMENTAL & HABITAT CONCERNS: YES
- If you launch or land on the beach, give priority to pedestrians;
- Do not mow the lawn in front of the beach and complicate exit and entry for others;
- Do not power-stroke your kite over the beach or near the beach. This is very intimidating for people on the beach. When there are people on the beach, body drag off shore to give plenty of clearance between your kite and the beach;
- Do not launch or land your kite near non-kiters. Ask them to move for their own safety;
- If you park in the racetrack lot, DO NOT block the passage of other cars or obstruct their trucking routes.
RIGHT OF WAY:
There are often dogs and kids on the beach so you must be careful with your kite. I’ve seen a number of experienced kiters launch right off the beach and dive their kites perilously close to people on the shore. Neither cool nor safe. I’ve also seen a few people catch their lines on tall poles on the beach. In short, don’t launch and land on the beach and don’t power stroke new the beach. Launch and land in the parking lot and body drag far enough away from the beach so that you can release your kite without any concern that it will land on the beach.
Again, launching can be tricky. Most people (self) launch and land in the Open Area next to the Bay Trail and the wind can be a little squirrelly back there. I recommend a short self-launch leash so that if you lose control for some reason, you won’t be yanked into the air and body-slammed — something I’ve seen many times. The swirling winds can also create wind holes that cause kites to fall from the sky only to the fully powered with the next gust. I have been dragged across the field towards the bollards more than once and I don’t wish that experience on anyone. So the general rule is to get into and out of the water as quickly as possible and don’t be afraid to pop your safety if anything feels unsafe.
I have seen a few cars with smashed windows and a number of regulars have had their cars broken into, so be careful about leaving valuables in the car. I have a safe in mine for cc, cash, etc. This applies to many sites, however, so it’s generally a good idea to have a secure place to store valuable in your car.
- Don’t be ashamed to body drag out. It’s not only the safe thing to do, it’s often the best way to reach the wind-line. On more than one occasion, I’ve been the only one kiting in 18-20mph winds by Point Albany only because all of the others on the beach were too proud to body drag to the wind line;
- Don’t get too close to the rocks on the northern edge of the cove. The wind can swirl near the shore and, if your kite falls, you’ll have to reel it in quickly to prevent it from hitting the rocks;
- Get out to Brooks channel and do the run to the sand bar at Brooks Island for flat water paradise. In a good SW-erly, you can kite down the southern edge of the island, make it around the western tip of the sand bar off Brooks and fly downwind for a mile of flat-water paradise! Beware, however, that you’re kiting in a shipping channel that has the occasional very large ship moving through;
- Keep your kite high when sailing around the eastern side of Brooks Island and its many wind-holes to enjoy the unmatched flat water behind the spit;