Toll Plaza Beach/Royce Beach/Radio Beach

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SEASON

April – September
 
The site is known as ‘Radio Beach’ (due to the radio towers surrounding the area),‘Royce Beach’ (due to the discovery of the beach as a kitesurfing site by the late Royce Vaughn) and ‘Toll Plaza’ (due to it’s location next to the toll booths for the Bay Bridge).

SKILL LEVEL: Beginner+

Toll Plaza is one of the few Bay Area locations suitable for beginners and it is the main site for instruction given by KGB kite school located nearby in Emeryville (https://www.kgbswag.com). That said, we do not recommend coming here without an instructor or basic kiting skills. There are a number of hazards at this site that require not only specific site knowledge but also some basic skill to avoid and navigate.

 

ACCESS:

Accessing the site is a little tricky the first time you go. If you’re coming from SF, you have to pass the site, head towards Berkeley and exit at the Powell Street exit in Emeryville and then circle back towards the bridge toll plaza. Once coming from the east bay heading towards SF, take the last exit before the toll plaza on the right hand side of the road–West Grand\Maritime exit—and take the sharp right turn towards the water before you go up and over the freeway (be careful not to take exit for the carpool lane back to SF that’s right before the West Grand exit). A utility road runs along the freeway to the beach. The Parking lot is dirt and will flood during high tides, so it’s often muddy.

RIGGING AND LAUNCH: TIDES DRAMATICALLY AFFECT LAUNCH!

When the tide is low, the beach is wide and long enough to accommodate a number of kiters rigging and landing (note: when taking a break, wrap your lines to make space for others. DO NOT leave your lines out). Kiters are always willing to assist in landing and launch, so take advantage of that help when it’s available. During high tides, however, the beach virtually disappears, complicating rigging, launch and landing. During high tides, kiters rig on a small clearing between the beach and parking lot. If there is enough sand to lay lines, they’ll pump in the clearing, take the kite to the beach and run lines. Otherwise, you rig and wrap lines and then self launch with an anchor or by drift launch (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 is a permanent anchor placed about 150 feet down the beach near the ice plant. If you walk down the beach and line yourself up with the No Parking signs posted in front of the gate leading to the radio tower, you should see it. There’s a reason the anchor is where it is: it’s far enough away from the power lines so that if you completely botch your launch you kite will not hit the power lines.

THE POWER LINES ARE LIVE POWER LINES— THE ARE NOT PHONE LINES!! AND YOU COULD GET ELECTROCUTED IF YOUR KITE STRIKES THEM! DO NOT LAUNCH, LAND OR KITE CLOSE ENOUGH TO THE LINES WHERE YOU REMOTELY RISK STRIKING THEM.

There are also a number of sticks, logs, plants and seaweed in the area that can easily catch lines during launch. Make sure your lines are clear before launching.
During very high tides, you can launch in the following ways:

  • assisted: your buddy can walk the kite into the water while you stand on shore, or you can walk into the water as your buddy holds the kite onshore. Your height and the depth of the water will determine which works best;
  • use the permanent anchor or your own anchor and position the kite in the window. It should stand on its edge until you launch;
  • walk out and drift launch. Given that the wind generally blows onshore, this can be difficult during high tides.

During very high tides, you can launch in the following ways:

  • assisted: your buddy can walk the kite into the water while you stand on shore, or you can walk into the water as your buddy holds the kite onshore. Your height and the depth of the water will determine which works best;
  • use the permanent anchor or your own anchor and position the kite in the window. It should stand on its edge until you launch;
  • walk out and drift launch. Given that the wind generally blows onshore, this can be difficult during high tides.

WIND DIRECTION: ONSHORE

With the exception of storms, the wind is onshore. While the wind tends to arrive from the SW, it is not uncommon to experiences WSW, W, WNW and NW winds.

OBSTACLES: YES

While the beach is quite long, making it amenable to various failed attempts to water-start and, hence, kind to beginners, there are some nasty rocks lining the point at the northern edge of the beach. There is also, not surprisingly, a wind shadow in this area. Many, many beginners have ruined their kites on these rocks and one kiter who was struggling to clear the rocks ended up with his kite wrapped around the radio tower located at the point. In general, steer clear of the point and don’t put yourself in a position where you’re edging hard upwind to pass the point.

Once off the beach, you’re generally clear of obstacles. If you happen to get sucked downwind into the small bay past the radio tower, you can walk your way out of the thick, black muddy goop that happens to be next to the sewage refinery. We’ve all done it.

CURRENTS: NEGLIGABLE

Currents are not a concern as long as you stay near the beach. If you venture into the Olympic Circle or Towards TI, check tides (https://tidesandcurrents.noaa.gov/noaatidepredictions.html?id=9414290&legacy=1) and carry a VHF marine radio (https://www.amazon.com/Standard-Horizon-HX150-Handheld-Marine/dp/B00AJVX5L6/ref=sr_1_17?s=electronics&ie=UTF8&qid=1540842206&sr=1-17&keywords=vhf+radio+marine). To request on-water assistance by VHF radio, use Channel 16 to report an incident to the Coast Guard.

TIDES: HIGH TIDES REDUCE ABILITY TO LAUNCH AND LAND ON BEACH

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The size of the beach varies dramatically based on tides. As mentioned above, in a low tide, it is possible to rig, launch and land on the beach. While in high tides, this site becomes an advanced launch site. The long and relatively shallow bottom are part of what make this site ideal for beginners, but during low tides, up to 100 yards of muddy bottom can be exposed, requiring a sticky, slippery walk to reach water. The shallow bottom is also the reason this is not a recommended spot for foiling.

AMENITIES: NONE

There are no toilets or fresh water at this site.

ENVIRONMENTAL & HABITAT CONCERNS: YES

The shoreline that runs along the border between Oakland and Emeryville is protected is sensitive marshland. If you happen to get trapped in the bay, minimize your impact on the habitat. 

GENERAL ETIQUETTE:

  • Do not kite, launch or land near the south end of the beach where you risk striking the live power lines;
  • Do not mow the lawn or perform tricks in front of the beach. Get offshore and create space for beginners and intermediates to enter and exit comfortably;
  • Due to limited beach space, wrap your lines when resting;
  • Yield right of way to kiters exiting the beach and to kiters who are not in full control of their gear;
  • Offer to assist with launch and landing.
  • Keep an eye out for beginners and others who might need assistance.

RIGHT OF WAY:

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 upwind kiter must give way to the downwind kiter. Yield to kiters who are not in full control of their gear.

LOCAL TIPS:

  • There’s often a relatively large wind shadow around the beach, so don’t be too proud to body drag out. It’s not only the safe thing to do, it’s often the best way to reach the wind-line;
  • Working your way upwind towards Treasure Island lets you taste the amazing winds of the central bay. From there you can do runs from the Bay Bridge to Brooks Island and back, slicing through the Berkeley Pier and into the heart of the Olympic Circle. Carry a radio and always yield to boat traffic in the area.

As always, if you have any questions or want assistance with your first time out, email the Toll Plaza 411, Andrew Sullivan, at kitetollplaza@gmail.com.

RELEVANT LINKS:

Site writeup info from SFBA.org

SITE 411:

Questions? comments? or want a Toll Plaza Beach local to help show you around the spot?

Click here to learn about Kiting411.com here or email

Andrew Sullivan kitetollplaza@gmail.com

 

San Francisco Boardsailing Association

www.SFBA.org

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.

https://www.sfba.org/membership.html