Crissy Field is a world-class sailing, windsurfing and kitesurfing area for experienced riders. Gusty winds and strong currents can make kiting here both challenging and dangerous. The wind is side-offshore and the launch can be tricky, with winds often fluky/light on the inside.
At Crissy we count on each other to be responsible and support one-another.
Kiters should excel… in upwind and jibing ability, be knowledgeable of ebb, flood and counter currents, and be strong swimmers. A full wetsuit year-round is a must! Because the wind can be light on the beach but nuking on the outside, rig the right size kite for the outside. If unsure of something, ask for assistance or advice from other riders; your actions are important to everyone, especially if they have to put themselves at risk to rescue you or help retrieve your gear! I will ad that if you think this is a place were you just park your kite and expect to cruise along you are mistaken. Crissy will chew you up and spit you out. It requires all your knowledge of kiteboarding and then some. If you have a weakness in your skills, they will soon become apparent.
Shared Beach – No Teaching on the Beach !
Do not jump on the beach, you could loose control of the kite and endanger other people.
Do not stand on the beach with the kite in the air, you get in the way of others and it is not safe.
Do not walk with your kite in the air in the parking lot, promenade or pick-nick areas. It is unsafe and intrusive to other beach users.
Only set up west of the bathroom on the beach, this gives you more room for a mishap from the rocks at the end of the beach, also families with little kids and others seem to like the east end of the beach. The handicap blue ramp is there too.
Beach Goers – We share the parking, promenade and beach with families, tourists and dog walkers. They always have the right of way. Please ensure you set‐up/launch away from crowds and children.
Windsurfers – Are well established at Crissy. Kite-boarders generally launch upwind of the windsurfers and head toward the north tower.
Kites on the Beach – Remember to put sand on your kite to avoid a runaway, and quickly roll up lines to avoid crossing someone else. Once launched, move to the water quickly; please don’t stand on the beach with your kite in the air. Keep it low and go, flukey wind, do not keep kite overhead.
Launching should be towards the water for safety and getting off the beach as soon as possible is good to reduce the chances of the beach incident.
Keeping your kite in the air through light wind just off the beach requires you to fly your kite aggressively with the kite DE-powered so the kite does not back stall into the water. If the kite goes down your chances of a relaunch is slim. This also goes for the critical moment when you get the board on your feet, you need to keep the kite moving.
Knowledge of the current is required to increase your success sailing at Crissy while avoiding needing to be rescued. The current usually changes first on the inside near the beach first and then spreads across the bay. A small flood current combined with an adverse south southwest wind component can make it so you can not get back to the beach. It is best to sail when it is slack tide going into an ebb.
Usually it is best to come back to the beach and call it a day if it is flooding current and you can not stay upwind of Anita rock on your first reach to the other side of the bay and coming back you should be up wind of Anita rock. Continuing to kite downwind of Anita rock is a bad situation unless you are on a foil or race board and very familiar with crissy. You will either need to be rescued or not make it to last chance beach.
The board selection you choose is very important. The odds go up just using a twin tip style board at Crissy. You should only be on a twin tip when the wind is filled in everywhere and it is ebbing. This is because you just do not have the floatation and surface area to run upwind efficiently. It also requires you to use a bigger kite that is less efficient going through marginally windy areas. The bigger kite is more dangerous on the beach being more powered up. Subsequently a Surfboard is better, then a race formula board and then a foil board in there efficiency going up wind and getting back to the beach etc.
The kite size at Crissy on average is 9m. If you need a bigger kite usually you need a bigger board to go with it. The exception is kite foils because of there efficiency.
Sailing here requires a constant situational awareness of were you are on the bay, you need to keep looking back to the beach and think how am I going to get back to the beach. The conditions constantly change from minute to minute at Crissy. The wind is sometimes very light on the inside but very windy further out from the beach. You need to pick a kite for the condition in the windy area. Frankly trying to kite on the inside is just bad news. The windsurfers feel unsafe from the kite, sun bathers wading in the water too. Kiting on the inside gives you the most swirly fluky wind, this increases the chance that your kite will end up in the water.
Numerous kiteboarders have been rescued by the Coast Guard when the are a couple feet off the beach but not able to touch the bottom and stand up. What happens is the south west wind blows more offshore at the east end of the beach. Well that is were you end up if under powered and it is flooding.
Your kite is down in the water and the light wind and current start taking offshore further away from the beach. Before you realize it you are half way to Alcatraz and Angel island needing a Coast Guard rescue. If your kite is down and you are being pulled offshore immediately you need to wrap up your lines and clip off you kite upside down and swim for the beach going with the current. Do not waist your energy swimming against the current.
While On the Bay
The Inside – From Anita Rock to the beach… it’s generally lighter in here and not great kiting unless it’s a strong NW day. You can usually swim in from here. More about the inside, here at Crissy we get off the beach and stay out till we are done for the day. Do not keep coming back on the inside, the wind usually sucks near the beach. Also it is like standing in the way of everyone else. Just one kite in the air is a big no no as you close out a vital section for people trying to get in and out from the beach. Plainly just do not kite inside . The wind is far better past Anita usually.
Anita Rock to the Channel – The span where the wind picks up and fills in. You are closer to the swim able zone yet not in the channel.
Fort Point/South Tower – The topography and the Fort there make for a wind shadow that moves around the tower base, which can drop your kite. Give the South Tower a wide berth.
Presidio Shoal – On the inside upwind of Crissy. Holey and light, kites often drop here.
North Tower – Smooth butter just outside. Northwest wind and ebbing, it is not ideal to go up to the bridge by the north tower as it is wind shadowed by the Marin headlands.
Shipping Channel – You probably want to spend the least time here, and be very alert!
Last Chance Beach – Or the stairs before the St Francis Yacht Club, both downwind of Crissy, are usually an easy shot if you miss Anita or even swim from inside Anita.
Coast Guard Etiquette
Personal Safety Equipment ‐ Consider carrying a VHF radio and a strobe light. Use Channel 16 to report an incident to the Coast Guard or to request on‐water assistance.
Mark Your Gear ‐ With your name and phone number. If you lose anything, report it to Coast Guard Station Golden Gate at (415) 331‐8247 to avoid a search and rescue operation. We don’t want the Coast Guard searching for you if you are safely on land. To contact the Coast Guard Sector San Francisco Command Center, which manages on‐water emergencies Area‐Wide, call (415) 399‐3451.
Self rescuing technique is critical at Crissy. Please practice it at some safer location.
Knowing your kite brands safety system is paramount. Knowledge of which line you roll up part way first to flag the kite and then rolling all the lines up. Holding the kite as a sail etc. An extra kite leash is recommended to have clipped on the back of your harness to use to attached to your board only if in a rescue situation. Keeping your kite inflated increases you viability on the water and you should never intentionally deflate it. It also provides floatation for you. It is recommended to wear a life jacket of some kind for extra floatation. Imagine being out at Crissy and losing your board and kite in some SANFU. It has happened and we have been lucky that no one has drowned so far.
If the Coast Guard, Fire department jet skies or police Boat come to your aid, do not refuse the ride, when they are beside you roll up you line if you have not don so already, only deflate your kite when they are confirmed they are going to take you on board. Pop your leading edge exhaust valve, then close it back up so water will not get in, then roll the kite up. You can leave the struts inflated.
Self Rescue Tips
Buddy System ‐ Use the buddy system and stay within in sight of the pack.
Taco Pronto ‐ Know how to taco/self rescue; never jettison your gear and swim for it.
Be Visible ‐ Always keep your kite inflated until you are rescued by a boat.
Swimming with Kite ‐ If the wind shifts offshore, flip your kite on its back and clip your leash to the pump attachment point, so you can swim parallel to the wind and current.
Inside Anita ‐ If you drop your kite inside the Anita Rock marker, swim for it.
Light wind on the Inside ‐ If it’s light on the inside, take a few tacks out and recon the wind line to find a way back home.
Returning ‐ On good days, coming in high (upwind of Anita) is fine, on most days ripping across the wind may be best, but sometimes going low is the only (and counter‐intuitive) option.
Flood Tide ‐ If you miss Last Chance Beach, stay out away from the piers downwind and wave down a boat or call the Coast Guard for help. The current is twice as fast there and you do not want to get sucked under the piers .
Fort Point – Fort Point (South Tower) is not a rescue option, unless you’re familiar with it and the tide is low with the small clearing visible between the rocks.
Getting back to the beach / landing:
Situational awareness. Watch the wind sock. Watch for kites down near the beach. Watch for people rushing back to the beach. Commit to decision to head back to beach.
Winds drop off (and change of direction) toward end of day
Getting back to the beach. Hum, light wind on the inside or no wind on the inside. Yikes. What to do. Well that knowledge of the current is helpful. Do I come in upwind to the beach or shoot low downwind too the beach. Look at other sailors and see how they are doing. Sometime there is pronounced wind-line on the water that is easy to see. Pass it and your kite will fall out of the sky. Ask your self ,can I swim/self rescue back to the beach before the current sweeps yourself out the Golden Gate Bridge or you flood past last chance beach.
Tide chart , I like this online version: http://wolfweb.unr.edu/homepage/edc/tid ... _fr14.html
Commercial Ship Traffic
Right‐of‐Way ‐ Always give commercial traffic the right‐of‐way. This means not crossing their bow, or kiting between a tug and its barge under tow. USCG Rule 9 places the obligation on us, the small vessel operator, to avoid impeding the large vessel.. see (http://www.uscg.mil/d11/vtssf/rule9.asp
Be Alert and Anticipate ‐ Allow more than enough time and space for a large vessel to see that you are moving out of their path. Make early and clear movements for them to confidently note your intentions.
Monitor ‐ VHF Ch 14, which commercial vessels use to communicate with Vessel Traffic Service (VTS). If you are in the water with broken gear and a ship is bearing down, contact the ship’s Master on the bridge of the vessel via Ch 14 as early as possible.
San Francisco Boardsailing Association (SFBA)
SFBA ‐ Was originally formed to protect access to Crissy Field. Since its founding in 1986, SFBA has focused on protecting and enhancing access to windsurfing and kiteboarding areas, and promoting safety for our members. These two missions are inextricably linked, because public perception of hazards from unsafe sailing behaviors represents one of the greatest threats to maintaining public access.
To Contribute – Help SFBA help you! Go to “SFBA.org” to join or contribute!