Downwinders are one of the best ways to enjoy the best of kitesurfing. Many reasons make downwinders a great idea for all levels of experience, from beginner through advanced. Check out our list of 10 reasons to go downwind to learn more about the approach, and why you should be doing them if not already.
San Francisco boasts an epic coastline, perfect for downwinders. 3.5 miles of wide open beach and Pacific swell and wind produce top-notch conditions for advanced riders. It's nice to know that you can enjoy this space with the help of public transportation.
Don't like riding buses? Then you might as well exit this page; this ain't for you. However, if you are a fan of cost-effective, efficient and environmental transportation, then please read on! 🤓
First, there are a few different kitesurfing downwinders known to San Francisco. On a North or NW wind, you can rig at Kelly's Cove and ride south all the way to the San Francisco Zoo. On a South or SW wind, you can rig at the SF Zoo and ride north to Kelly's Cove. Other non-ocean downwinders also exist, such as Crissy Field to Berkeley, if you are into riding in the Bay. Whichever one you choose, make sure to grab a buddy and plan ahead for the wind and weather conditions.
Here at SF Kitesurf, we don't like owning cars for environmental reasons. We recommend it. Thankfully, there are a variety of public transportation options in and around the city. Of which you may need to take a course at your local university to fully comprehend. But since you probably don't have time for that, we'll give you a crash course...
There's the Muni (San Francisco Municipal Railway). This comprises of buses and a few light rails mostly within the SF city limits. Best for trips 2-5 miles.
Then there is the BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit). This is best for 5 - 15 miles within and reaching past the city limits. Need to go a little farther? Then you have the CalTrain, which extends much farther down the peninsula for 15 - 30 miles or so.
If you're into sightseeing, you can ride the Cable Car. Very fun, but hope you're not in a rush or going very far from the city core. Also, bring a jacket. Actually, since it's San Francisco, bring a jacket everywhere you go. It's a rule.
Of course, there's the all mighty Clipper Card. This isn't a rail, bus or line, but rather a card that provides you universal access. Perhaps we'll write an article on the benefits of a Clipper card in the future, but just buy one and use it for all forms of transport. It ties everything together.
Lastly, there's always Uber or Lyft for filling in the gaps between schedules and routes.
To kitesurf the full oceanside of SF, then bus #18 is your ticket! Check out this SFMTA website to see more detail on the route, map, and timelines. It costs $2.25 for a 2 hour timeframe, and has your name all over it.
You can ride it either direction, so wind direction isn't a factor. So northerlies work and so do southerlies. It cruises up and down the coastline 1-3 blocks from the beach, so you can pick it up anywhere along the way.
The bus is not very crowded, so you don't need to worry about cramming in tight. The bus drivers are very friendly and used to "beach people". We haven't had any issues with a few flecks of sand still stuck to us or our gear, or some drops of water. We do recommend trying to be as courteous as possible to other riders by not making a mess, but there aren't any posted rules about being dirty (if everyone who rode the bus got dunked in the ocean before boarding, it wouldn't necessarily be a bad thing).
We've never been kicked off a bus, and don't plan to starting anytime soon. So, be respectful, kind, and courteous, pay your way, and enjoy the ride!
Interested in checking out some other popular downwinder kitesurfing locations in the US? Here is our short list of epic routes.
Cape Hatteras, North Carolina, Outer Banks - Planet of the Apes. A flat water practitioner's dream. Great for boosting jumps, buttery rides, and shallow water. Check out Matt and Trip at REAL Kiteboarding while you're there.
Juno Beach, Jupiter, Florida - Dog Beaches. Great for blue water, warm temperatures, and throwing shore break. Say Hi to Jeremy at Jupiter Kiteboarding during your visit.
South Padre Island, Texas - to the End of the Road. 7 miles of oceanside downwinders. Choose your wave height from the sand bars, stop for some beers, and be the sun. Drop in to see Jeff at Air Padre Kiteboarding for some local intel.