Matt here with my first blog post for California Canoe & Kayak. Last Friday I took a standup paddleboard to Yellow Bluff for the first time and it was challenging. I hoped to arrive to perfect conditions and a smooth front wave that I could surf on. The weather wasn’t great, but the radar showed a break in the rain from noon to 2pm that lined up perfectly with the 1:50pm max ebb. By 12:15pm I paddled into the top of the eddy at Yellow Bluff without rain and with skies clear enough to see across the Bay. Light winds from the south and strong currents set up an okay wave up front.
At first it was difficult to stay in position, but after several attempts I finally got a really nice surf. Turns out it was a passing passenger ferry that created the wave. The ferry wake mixed with the waves of the tide race and created a nice set of waves – up to 2′ each, at least four of them at peak height.
Between passing boats I made my way into and out of the current practicing ferry glides and maneuvering. Balancing the board in such confused water is pretty difficult and bracing is absolutely crucial. I found myself bracing much more than I would normally brace while in a sea kayak in those conditions. After playing in the waves for awhile, I paddled up the tide race into the eddy above. It was a workout paddling up current at a fast cadence and reinforces the need to develop proper stroke technique. While taking a breather in the eddy above, another boat passed and by the time I made it back down to the tide race, the wake had reached the top and turned into four nice, steep, clean waves. With more skills I would’ve spun the board around and tried to surf them, but that clearly wasn’t going to happen so I headed straight into them. I couldn’t resist the chance to plow the board over those waves at a quick speed. I did pierce cleanly through the top of one while maintaining my footing. After the charge I pulled into the eddy, took a break and then played for another 20 minutes. As I paddled back to Horseshoe Cove the rain began falling again, the skies grew darker and in my mind I began planning my next trip here.
If you’re going to venture out onto San Francisco Bay on a paddleboard, be sure to bring your skillls up to par first. Take a course, practice as much as possible and learn what you’re doing on flat water before paddling in wind, chop, current or surf. SF Bay is very complex so take the time to develop an understanding of tides and moving water before you consider paddling an SUP out there.
CCK is the only Bay Area paddling school with ACA certified SUP instructors and offers classes in Oakland and Half Moon Bay. SUP classes resume in February – check our calendar for dates. Book one today to improve your balance, technique & speed.