Windsurfing Safety For San Francisco Bay

Windsurfing in the San Francisco Bay can be extremely fun and exciting. Certain Safety precautions should be followed to ensure a good experience. The San Francisco Boardsailing Association is dedicated to promoting safe windsurfing. This safety guide is meant to help boardsailors learn common safety rules and become familiar with some of the popular sailing sites.


Never Sail Alone! Several deaths can be attributed to either a failure of the buddy system or a single boardsailor sailing alone. In 1993, two boardsailors were swept out into the Pacific Ocean several miles beyond the Golden Gate Bridge. You don't want this to happen to you!! Even if you have a buddy, keep an eye out for others who may need help & lend assistance if you can. BE PROACTIVE!!

WEAR A WETSUIT (4mil) or Dry Suit

The temperature in the Bay can drop to 55° F or lower. If you are down in the water, it doesn't take long before life-threatening hypothermia can set in. You should wear a wetsuit that not only allows you to be comfortable while you are sailing, but which will laso keep you warm in the worst case scenario. Think of a warmer wetsuit as your life insurance policy. You should look for a full length 4 mil suit.


Line: You should carry line to allow you to self rescue or tow a disabled board in. It is a good idea to carry a few pieces of line. You can always join two or more pieces to make a longer tow line. Yuo should always have an uphaul line which can also be used as a tow line or a line to secure gear if you have to break down sail due to a broken mast.

Whistle/Compass: When you are in trouble. It is best to summon someone to help you if possible. A whistle will allow you to get the attention of nearby sailors. A compass will come in handy if you ever end up in the fog. Once the wind dies in the fog, there may be no way to determine which way the shore is without a compass.

Radio/Strobe: If you sail a mile or more from shore, you should carry safety flares, a light source, and seriously consider carrying a VHF marine radio. Check out the SFBA VHF Marine Radio Guide for advise on carrying a radio on the water. If you are out after dark, a strobe light or other light source could very well be the difference between being rescued or spending the night on the water.


Periodically check your equipment for premature wear and replace critical components at the first signs. Universals & Masts are the most common components to fail and failures result in the need for a rescue.


Every location has particular dangers to be aware of (Submerged obstacles, sudden offshore wind, flood or ebb tides, rip tides or strong currents). With kitesurfing especially, there may be site conditions that make certain areas safer or more dangerous for launching and landing. If you have the chance it is always a good idea to talk with someone who has knowledge of the local conditions and practices before sailing a new spot.


Right of way information for windsurfing and kiteboarding

Circled Vessel has Right-of-Way

  1. Starboard tack (right hand forward) has right-of-way over a port tack.
  2. Leeward boat has right-of-way over windward boat.
  3. An overtaking boat must stay clear.
  4. Motor vessels have the Right-of-Way when confined to a channel.

Due to the high speeds sailboards can achieve, the SFBA recommends boardsailors stay clear of all vessels. You are obligated by law to avoid a collision even if you have the right-of-way.

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