San Francisco and Silicon Valley is well known as the place to be if you are a tech entrepreneur as it draws people from all around the world. But, you might not be aware that it is also home to one of the most consistent, strongest wind areas in North America making it a fantastic place to kite in the Summer season.
Sherman Island, Launch/Landing Area
I am going to focus on one spot in particular, Sherman Island. It is based in the Sacramento Delta just over 1 hour East of San Francisco. This tidal brackish water location is one of my favorite places to kite in the world and I have a lot of fond memories from kiting here. Not just because of the consistent winds but the community of people that call this their local spot.
Sherman Island CA, USA
Wind Conditions: Sherman Island has its best winds from June — August but you can often get good wind on either side of these months. The winds come from the North West and are created by a thermal gradient. If its foggy at the bridge (Golden Gate) and it’s hot in Sacramento (30+) you are almost guaranteed to have +20knts at Sherman Island.
The wind is pretty consistent with how it works. It blows all night and then drops off at 11am and then picks back up after 2pm if the gradient is in action.
Water Conditions: Water temperature can vary a lot at this location depending on how much snow the season has had. It normally ranges from 15–22 degrees Celsius. This being said, it is the warmest place to kite in the whole bay area so you will find people just wearing board shorts (me included).
Another great thing about this place is the different water conditions. Over near the small low laying islands you will find glass like water while in the main channel you will find consistent tidal chop (~30cm) which makes for some fun.
Summer sunset at Sherman Island
Where to stay: There is a large community of people that park their RV’s in the carpark right at the kite launch area for the summer as their are some basic amenities (toilets, no showers). You are also allowed to camp for a small fee each night in the carpark area. There is also a small RV park a little bit back up the road (~1 mile) that has power, showers and toilets but most stay in the carpark area.
Also, there is a daily fee of $5 to enter the car park of Sherman Island or alternatively, if you are going to be staying longer I would recommend purchasing an annual parks pass for $50.
How to get there: It’s just over a 1 hour drive from the city of San Francisco so you will need a car (or RV) to get to Sherman Island. Your best bet is to fly into SFO or Oakland airport and go from there. The drive up can be very busy if you hit peak hour traffic so keep that in mind when you are planning your trip as it once took me 2.5 hours.
Experience level needed: You really need to know how to stay up wind at a bare minimum if you are going to kite here. The launch area is small and can get extremely crowded so you need to take extra care. Once you get your kite up you need to walk ~100m down a dirt path to the beach. Once there you need to get up on your board quickly as the wind is blowing on shore which I have seen many novice kiters end with their kites in the weeds.
When you want to get out. You have to time your exit to make sure no one is coming in and there is no one in your way exiting. You quickly then need to walk down the exit path (different to the entry path) and then land your kite in between all the other kites.
Who goes there: Sherman Island has a large friendly community of avid kiters from all around the world. This is because the “valley” has brought in so many tech people from all walks of life and it has a large group of them that kite.
This place also sees a lot of day trippers coming up from the bay area so it can get incredibly busy during the day. On weekends (especially holiday ones) the camp comes to life in the evenings with everyone sharing their kiting stories of the day and helping others with how to perfect that trick they are working on.
Internet: You can get really good 4G LTE cell service here through most US cellular providers.
No wind activities: SUPing is about it. It is a remote location with not much to do if the wind decides not to show up.
Wind Energy, hundreds of windmills
Must Do Activities: Eugenia and her crew at The Kite Bar organise downwinders on Sundays from time to time in the windy season. They start from near her store in Pittsburg and finish at Sherman Island. They provide a rescue jetski and it’s a fun afternoon which ends with a big yellow school bus to take you back to the start point later in the afternoon.
Another thing, there are a few small kickers that are located near one of the small islands. If you have never tried one of these before, I highly recommend giving it a go. Super fun!
Luggage Tip: Most US airlines have terrible sporting equipment rules when traveling with your kite bag within the US. I recommend traveling with a kite bag that is labeled as “Golf Bag” as some of them allow you to carry this for free. Just make sure to keep the weight under 23kg (50lbs). But, from what I have experienced traveling domestically in the US, they always like to charge me anywhere from $50 — $175.
If you are flying in from an international location and have a connecting flight with the same carrier or airline alliance, they will however honor your international baggage allowance/rules which is handy.
Have I left anything out? Feel free to comment below to help others out with this kiting location.