Advice Sought: Paddling under the GG Br.

-- Last Updated: Nov-04-08 9:55 PM EST --

I've heard two completely different spins on the dangers of paddling under the Golden Gate Bridge, so I'm not sure which one is correct.
(I'm also open to other takes on the activity).

One friend told me there was a 7 mph tide under the bridge that would carry you out to sea if you hit it at the wrong time of day.

Another friend said that was Bunk because a kayak offers such little drag and you could easily overpower the tidal surge and continue on your merry way.

Of course I'm aware of the other dangers: High seas, shipping traffic, winds, currents, foul weather and cold water, but what I'm really looking for it some advice on how to plan for such an "adventure".

I'm not planning on paddling too far out the other side and into the open ocean, but rather launching from Crsssy Field and heading under the bridge, out to that strange looking tower-thingy and back into the bay.

So what do I need to know?

I guess this is where I should say that while I don't have a ton of Bay experience and absolutely Zero time on the open ocean, I do get out on the SF Bay when I can, I've taken a couple of sea kayaking courses and know how to self-rescue in a few ways, and I carry all sorts of emergency and safety gear, including a 2-way radio and cell phone, tons of food/water and warm gear.

My boat is an '06 WS Tsunami 145 with no rudder.


I hope this is a joke!
If you don’t know about tides you have probably picked one of the deadliest day trips.

No drag?
The friend who said that a paddler can handily overcome that current is not a paddler. And it’d be in knots rather than mph anyway if they knew what they were about.

Seriously, I have never been anywhere near the GG bridge except to drive on it to get to Muir Woods, but there is ample evidence that it’s not a place to take lightly with the currents. You may want to check for local knowledge and/or try it the first time in a supported group. One place that came up on a quick Google was this one.

Sea Trek
The good folks at Sea Trek in Sausalito know the bridge and the surrounding waters very well, have a good beach to launch and land and offer a monthly trip to the GGB.

My wife and I rented and demo’ed many boats from them before I bought my boat from them and wouldn’t hesitate to recommend them.

I have not paddled the GGB myself, but have been close. IMO - if you have one second of doubt in your ability to handle the conditions that you could encounter, DON’T GO. Keep in mind when you paddle the bay near the GGB, if it has been, or is raining and the tide is going out all that rain water will be flowing out as well, it can add considerably to the outgoing current.

Thanks for the tips!
Thanks everyone, I understand tides (& I knew it was knots). =)~

I just wanted to get a “second opinion”.

To be honest it wasn’t my idea to take this trip, but that of a friend, so I thought I’d dig up as much information as I could find.

I’ve been under the GG Bridge a few times in larger boats (smaller than the ferry), and it can pretty hairy out there! :open_mouth:

Still, it’s something I’d like to tackle at some point. Just not this weekend. ;^)~


I used to paddle out The Gate pretty
regularly. . You do need to know about the tides and currents, be prepared to handle 30kt winds, potentially strong current, The Potato Patch and be wary of fishing boats if you paddle out of Pt Bonita. You can check with BASK at Their members paddle out fairly regularly and have the reputation of being very competent sea kayakers.Anyone who tells you they can paddle out against a 7 knot current is full of s$%#. I have paddled against the Gate currents of 4 knots and it took me an 45 minutes to get from Horseshoe Cove to under the bridge and I was going all out to make headway. A couple of pics. Pt Bonita on a pretty benign day and under the GG Bridge with 20 kt gusting to to 30 kt winds. It was huge outside Pt Bonita that day.

tides are a concern

– Last Updated: Nov-05-08 5:59 PM EST –

I am with Tsunamichuck (though haven't had the opportunity to paddle with him yet). Tides are a big concern, as are waves, wind, ships, etc. Concern, though not something that prevents you from going out when the conditions are favorable (as they are a good percentage of the time).

I live in SF, so often paddle in the area. I normally plan my trips out the gate so that I go out with the ebb (outgoing) tide and return with the flood. But I have also gone out when the tides weren't necessarily with me - but only when the current I'd have to fight was predicted to be 2 knots or less. This isn't what always happens - for example, tonight has 4+ knot tides at the gate.

BASK had a paddle back when the Queen Mary came through the Gate. The folks planned to stay inside the gate and just take photos from there. But it was a big ebb day, and some folks found themselves being taken out as they took pictures. They couldn't fight the tide, so ended up paddling out to Kirby Cove (a beach outside the gate) to wait out the tide. I am a BASKer and most of the folks I know there are very aware of the currents, yet this still happened to them.

Edit - the strange thing you are talking about is Mile Rock. It is about 2 miles from the gate. On an ebb tide, there can be a lot of standing waves due to a tide rip from what I assume is a reef below the area. Mile rock used to have a lighthouse on it, so what you see is the base of that lighthouse.

Edit2 - the tides this weekend do not look good. The high tide is in the middle of the day, so unless you went at an odd time, you would be fighting the tides. The max ebb tide is predicted to be running at 4+ knots.

Get some experience
Take Chuck’s advice from above. He is astrong paddler and has lots of open water experience.

“I don’t have a ton of Bay experience and absolutely Zero time on the open ocean”

Take some open ocean paddling classes, get some experience, then go with one of the local kayak clubs like BASK.

Watch the tides, weather report, swell forecast for a few months and observe the water before you try it. Make sure you can rescue your self in bad ass conditions before you get yourself in trouble.

Who’s the friend?
I just caught in your reply above that a friend seems to have suggested this paddle. If it’s the same person who suggested that a 7 mph current shouldn’t be any matter, you should probably think at least as much about your ability to get them out of the drink in rough conditions as your self-rescue ability. Unless you want to really ramp up the risk something guided may be the best idea all around. I’ve been in a situation where a paddler and their boat got separated after a capsize in strong current and wind, around a bridge out to the ocean in fact, and it ended up taking all 3 other paddlers to get things sorted out. Two isn’t enough.

It was two different people
To be honest, the friend who told me you could easily fight an outgoing tide isn’t really a kayaker, but rather uses his SOT as a platform for scuba diving off the coast.

The friend who suggested this “trip” (from hell) paddled under the GG Bridge in a canoe several years ago in extreme (read, crazy) conditions and managed to survive. I think this “success” is why he thought it would be a good idea to try again.

Personally the idea scares me to death, that’s why I’m asking about it here. =)~

I was hoping, as is the case, that someone would talk me out of it. ;-/


GG Bridge
Someone suggested that if you have any doubts don’t do it. That is very good advice. VF

I Don’t Do The Gate
I do have a story about kayaking under the Golden Gate…but I am not going to share it…

Suffice to say the currents can be too strong to make headway, or even maintain position.

But the main reason I don’t do the Gate is some non-kayaking boating experience there. Really crazy, stoned, drunk power boaters and sailors.

We are not having a Salmon fishing season this year, but usually the salmon boat skippers are stung out on meth by June. They have to to keep the schedule.

They can be pretty damn cranky with anyone who is not “working for a living”, including sailboats, and kayakers. I have seen it first hand.

It is awesome under the bridge, but I don’t paddle there

Video of 30 ft sailboat surfing …
I was looking for that on you tube but can’t find it.

That Was Way Cool! In A Sick Way…
The 30’ sailboat that sailed into the surfing area at Fort Baker and got pitch poled. It was pretty awesome video. And a good example of why you need to keep your eyes open around there.

A kayak just can’t get out of the way of a power boat, and I am just not that trusting…

What video
are you talking about? I don’t remember reading anything about a video. ;-/


I had just pulled in
from a trip out to Pt Bonita when that had happened. I was on the Marin side. As iwas loading my kayak on the car, a couple of Coast Guard Rhibs hauled butt out of Horseshoe Cove and there was a helicopter dispatched. The sailboat crew was save by the surfers off Ft Point.

would exceed the speed at which you could paddle, so I’m not sure how you could paddle against that?

Go to NOAA website and bookmark the tide schedule for San Franscisco. That way you know can learn the tide patterns. It’s pretty basic to learn when the tides are coming in and going out. Out, in. Out, in.

The tide can be stronger at some times than others especially with the wind. And even when the wind is against the tide it creates waves that will be intemidating.

I think the Coast Guard offers free classes.

I’m in South Carolina, but by looking on my Lowrance GPS with Nautic Path, I see that the tide is going out at 3 mph. (It says mph on the GPS)It also has the daily flood and ebbs tides.

But you really want to learn when the tide rips out with the wind.

We have some inlets that exceed 6mph and I hear kayakers being rescued out at sea by the CG when they can’t handle the conditions.

In short, plan the tides. Don’t go out at high tide or when the tide is going out and get swept out. And if you do have a plan where you can pull over.

It was a 22’ Santana sailboat,
and it sank. To Davey Jones locker.


Here is a link to still pics.

the power of waves…