Before you start any trip, always know the forecasted winds, tides, currents, and weather, and their potential to impact your ability to safely return to shore. Tide, current, and trip planning tools provided below and available on each Trailhead webpage will help you plan for a safe and enjoyable trip, but above all, educate yourself and take responsibility for your safety.
Tides and Currents
The daily rise and fall of the tides can substantially affect your Water Trail journey. The currents in the Bay are generated by the tides – currents are strongest during and shortly after full moon and new moon when tide differences are highest.
Plan your trip based on favorable tide, current and weather predictions. If a paddling trip is poorly planned, you can get caught fighting strong currents or stuck during low tide in mudflats far from a launch site.
It is important to learn how to read tide and current tables. Bay Area Sea Kayakers provides a helpful overview on how to plan for tides and currents. Reading the water and knowing how to paddle across a current are also important skills when paddling in the Bay. Classes or guided trips can be a great way to learn how to best plan for the tides and currents when exploring a new area.
- Online tide and current conditions can be found at NOAA’s website.
- You can obtain a Northern California Tide Log from most marine supply stores and many local book stores.
- You may also find the Trip Planner page from Bay Area Sea Kayakers helpful.
Weather and Winds
The weather on San Francisco Bay can change very quickly and is variable by location. Winds and fog can appear quickly. Check the weather before you go, but also be aware of changing conditions while on the water.
In general, in the Bay Area winds are strongest and most frequent in the summer months, particularly in the afternoon. Calmer conditions are more frequent during the spring and fall.
- Buoy data updated every few minutes can be found on NOAA’s website courtesy of the National Data Buoy Center. This website includes an interactive map with buoys you can click on to retrieve data that will be relevant to your trip.
- There are several commercial wind data websites that are popular among windsurfers and kiteboarders – check the San Francisco Boardsailing Association website or contact members for more information.
- Marine weather is broadcast continuously on VHF radio on channels 3, 4 and 6.
- NOAA provides marine weather conditions and forecasts (click on map for San Francisco Bay).
- To see satellite images and videos of Pacific Coast weather, visit the NOAA Geostationary Satellite Server website.
Pollutants in the Bay occasionally become concentrated enough to exceed levels considered healthy for human contact. These conditions occur most frequently within 24-48 hours after rain events, when urban pollutants are flushed into the Bay. It is recommended you limit water contact following rain events.
- Heal the Bay provides water quality health reports for beaches and launches around the Bay
- San Francisco Baykeeper provides information about conditions and ways report pollution
There are several webcams located on the Bay that can provide a helpful snapshot of current conditions.