California Kiteboarding

2024 Kiteboarding & Windsurfing CA

Sunburned faces, shedding noses, burning muscles, a solid sand-sunscreen mixture in every wrinkle, scratches, and bruises well-distributed over the body… we are ready for the next kite day in California. Yesterday’s spot was a surprise. The wind blew steady from the east so we convinced ourselves to give it at least a try. I was scared by the waves so I went in without kite to test the wake, water height, and ground texture. After the first few steps on pebbles is an edge after which it goes down about 2 feet. Two or three steps further I could not stand anymore. The pull of the waves was softer than expected though.

I walked through the surf, slide down the pebbled edge and body-dragged behind the bigger waves. Fighting a wave I squeezed my bootied feet into the loops on the board, with quick looks up to the sky to check the kite location. After the next wave, I got on the board, surprisingly easy, and the rodeo took its course. Eventually, the pace picked up, the board bumped over the swashing water. Fast, scary and fun. Some tacks downwind and walking upwind on the beach is currently my approach, but it actually takes too much energy. I really need to learn surfing upwind. The kite spot is definitely not a beauty, it’s way too much trash everywhere. The wind from the east was very steady though and the waves kind of friendly. The tide does not really matter, I guess because you can’t stand anyway. For us, it was a good ocean beginner kite spot and we’ll go again to fight more waves.

Kiteboarding Waddell Creek Beach California

Crisp waves, high as a tall man, roll to the broad beach. The steady North-West wind makes Waddell Creek Beach one of the best spots for kiteboarding and windsurfing. It’s clearly not a spot for newbies. It’s the one great spot for pros between San Francisco and Santa Cruz. When the wind picks up around noon, kites are inflated en gros. It is as if a big cake was served and now all the ants show up, drooling and with fork and knife ready for action.

We went there many times but as those waves really impressed (scared) me, I didn’t try kiteboarding up until just recently. The waves were only high as an almost tall man and with some gentle force from my loved one, I made it into the water with kite and board. My first approach was to body drag through the waves and start behind the craziness but I got battered by the waves. So I tried starting in the white water to kite downwind till a magic whole in the waves would appear through which I could slip. Even after I smashed onto the beach once, I thought this was a better approach. Behind the wavy area, it was even for me ok to kite. I tried to hard to stay upwind though and lost my board numerous times. One of the pro surfers was so kind to always bring it back. Great service, sir!

Last weekend we went again to Waddell. We stopped at the lighthouse for a little bio brake and were surprised to see some seals in the water. In Santa Cruz, where we stayed overnight, more seals, lots of pelicans and other birds. I’m wondering, are there more birds and seals because there are more fish in the moment? And if there are more seals, are there more sharks??! After all, Sharktober is about to start. So, no I didn’t kite last weekend. It’s clearly not a good idea to body drag through the red triangle, looking like a helpless, little seal.

But anyhow, I had a great time, watching the pros and hundreds, if not thousands of Pelican’s, the rolling waves and the cliffy coast.

Waddell Creek Beach Kiteboarding Details

  • Season: seems to be March till Sharktober
  • Wind: Known for steady strong North West Wind Windalert
  • Tide and Current: Tide table here
  • Waves: high
  • Wetsuit: yes, it’s cold, bring a wetsuit!
  • Beach: sandy, to the right rocks hide in the water
  • Specialty: Waddell is the opening location for the American Windsurfing Tour for three years due to the very reliable conditions. And Sharktober.
  • Who’s there: Advanced Kite and Wind Surfers, Surfers
  • Good to know: Watch out for Whales, Dolphins, Sharks, Seals, Pelicans

How to get there: Take Highway CA-1 from San Francisco down South (1 h 15 min) or same Highway from Santa Cruz up North (30 min). No matter if you go North or South, the rough cliffs along the coast are incredibly beautiful. The drive itself is worth the trip. If you are not too much in a rush to get to the kite spot, take one of the small, dusty parking lots along the highway and find a path down to the ocean. There are Whales and Dolphins out there, maybe you’ll see one, or even a whole family.

Kiteboarding Alameda Beach California

A long sandy beach, shallow waves and the San Francisco Skyline on the horizon: it is a great spot. Not only for kite surfers though. There are families, BBQ parties, sunbathers, folks with trainer kites, bikers on the beach, the bike trail and the lawn and stand-up paddlers, swimmers, windsurfers, and others in the water. On a sunny, windy weekend day this place can get crowded. The local Kite School Boardsports has a designated launching area. So we’ve launched there and none of the other beachgoers was entangled in our kites. But we made the big mistake to unreel the lines across the bike path. A mini-biker of about 6 years rolled over them and it took a while to free his bike from Kite lines. Lesson learned: There are better places for kite lines than walkways. I guess at a crowded place like this one, it’s good to read the safety guidelines first. Time to explore the Californian Kite spots! The first one is a beginner-friendly location in the San Francisco Bay: Alameda Beach, officially known as Robert W. Crown Memorial State Beach.

The kiters distribute themselves over a large kite-able area and so it was not too crowded in the water while I was there. The long beach is perfect for folks like me, downwind surfing, upwind walking. I really have to learn to go upwind soon. This spot is perfect for beginners as the waves are usually small and there is no perceptible current.

There are rumors out there that surfers need to share the Bay with sharks. The great white shark! A wide area on the ocean side of the Golden Gate Bridge, from Bodega Bay, North of San Francisco, all the way to Big Sur, far South of San Francisco, is called Red Triangle. It’s a preferred breeding area for many marine mammals like elephant seals, sea lions, and otters which are the great white shark’s delicacy. Like the famous sea lions of Fisherman’s Wharf. Fat and numerous tidbits for the white’s, right in the Bay.

I guess that’s a good reason to learn quickly how to stay on the board and ride fast. Better don’t look like a yummy, fat sea lion.

Alameda Beach Kiteboarding Details

Season: April through October

  • Wind: Wind Alert USS Hornet is not very reliable. Better trust the locals. Boardsports is the local Kite school and the guys there are incredibly good in predicting the afternoon winds by reading the fog bank in the West and the wind condition on the ocean side of Golden Gate Bridge. It seems like more fog in the morning on the ocean side means more wind in the Bay in the afternoon.
  • Tide and Current: Not much current. Here is a Tide Overview. The low tide really means no water at all. You can walk far out dry-shod.
  • Waves:  Shallow Bay waves are perfect for beginners.
  • Wetsuit: Yep. The Bay is cold. Not freezing, but year around wetsuit-cold.
  • Beach: Long and sandy beach without rocks. Enough space for lots of kites and sunbathing folks.
  • Specialty: Maybe sharks are around, so better don’t look like a seal.
  • Who’s there:  Kiteboarding beginners, some intermediate and one or two advanced riders.
  • Good to know: Kiteboarding safety rules

How to get there: It’s a 25 min drive from San Francisco’s busy Market Street, across the Bay Bridge and south on I-880 till Exit 42. Then follow 5th Street East and the Alameda Sign, through a tunnel and just keep going till you see the water. Parking is no problem. In-season it’s $5 when the booth is attended. Otherwise, it’s free.

And back: On the way back to San Francisco you’ll find yourself most likely together with 500 other cars in front of the Bridge Toll Booths.  It’s around $5 or $6. Wait in line and pay cash or wave and smile because you’ve got a FasTrak toll tag.

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