Tourists renting 'yaks in San Francisco

My wife and I will be visiting San Francisco at the end of March, and I am wondering about the possibility of renting kayaks while there. We’ll be staying in the North Beach area, and will have a rented car for a day or two.

I’m an intermediate-level paddler (whatever that means), with tripping experience on the Great Lakes and a decent roll. My wife has only begun kayaking in the last year or so and is a novice paddler.

So I was surprised when SHE suggested a sunset/moonlit paddle tour guided by this place:

They evidently cater to beginners and the more experienced paddler. I don’t know the SF area, but trip landmarks apparently include Cupid’s Arrow, Bay Bridge, McCovey Cove. “Performance sea kayaks are used for these trips”, I believe couples are assigned tandem boats, and all related gear is provided.

I figure with me in the stern position, I can kinda keep an eye on my wife and react accordingly to help prevent a capsize, and there will always be at least one guide present, to help with a rescue.

Any thoughts on this, or suggestions for other options?

If you are comfortable solo

– Last Updated: Feb-28-07 9:52 AM EST –

You could rent at Sea Trek in Sausalito and do the Gate. Or just do a trip inside Richardson Bay with your wife.
Check the current tables. 5 kt currents are not uncommon.
No car? You can rent a bike a pedal over the Golden Gate Bridge and take the Ferry back to San Francisco.

Tandem v Solo

– Last Updated: Feb-28-07 2:13 PM EST –

My recall from a visit years ago was that San Franciso tended to the windy side. Depending on the amount of shelter on a given course, you may be thinking quite correctly about doing a tandem. I don't know how your wife handles wind, but if she is expending a lot of effort just staying on course it won't be very relaxing or fun for her.

Somewhere in an older Sea Kayaker magazine I think is a story of a guide who wished that she had put the husband in the back. He insisted on being up front, and due to language barriers the guide couldn't explain to him that as the stronger paddler he should be in back. Apparently they made it about halfway thru the trip before his wife bonked him on the head with her paddle because she had it with the constant stream of criticism and orders.

plenty of options

– Last Updated: Feb-28-07 11:57 AM EST –

I have never rented from City Kayaks, but that could be a good option. I suspect it is a relatively short paddle (a couple of miles).

There are plenty of other options. Sea Trek was mentioned above.

You can also take the Alameda-Oakland Ferry to Jack London Square and rent from California Canoe and Kayak ( This would let you paddle around the Oakland Estuary, where you can see the big ships of the Oakland Container Terminal and a bunch of Marinas and dry docks.

If you are willing to use one of you car days and see more natural sites, I would either go to:

- Elkhorn Slough in Monterey Bay ( About an hour and a half south of SF. Rentals available from Monterey Bay Kayaks ( or Kayak Connection ( Lots of sea otters, harbor seals, birds, etc. Sometimes (rarely) you can see leopard sharks in the water. For nature, this is a place that is hard to beat. Both rental places have tours, or the area is reasonably well protected so going on your own is a viable option.

- Tomales Bay up near Point Reyes ( About an hour north of SF. Rentals available at Blue Waters Sea Kayaks ( Seals, birds, sometimes leopard sharks and rays. Blue Waters does have tours also.

Some general notes - the water is cold (temps will be below 60), so get a wet suit with the boat (most rental companies provide). Tides are significant, and currents can be very strong in the SF Bay, especially near constrictions (often where the bridges are at). It is not unheard of for kayakers to get flushed out past the Golden Gate Bridge and have to either get rescued or wait for the tide to turn before they can get back in (won't be an issue if you do a tour - but possible if you go solo and decide to paddle to the bridge). Winds do pick up in the afternoon - generally onshore (mostly an issue at Elkhorn Slough, where you paddle inland first).

I call that stroke the "Skull Rudder"
Learned it in the back of a canoe at Summer camp. Don’t all tandem paddlers use it?

Yea if you get an early start the winds won’t be that bad.

If the winds pick up it cna get pretty choppy down there. watch for tide rips under the bridge there is pretty big one ont he north side of the bridge.

if you put in at richardson bay you can paddle out and head over to angel island and do a circumanviagation depending on winds and tides.

if bad you can just stay in the bay

Thanks …
… for all the great suggestions! Will check them out and choose something.

Oh, and I insist on taking the rear position. That way when I provide my own constant stream of criticism and orders, it’s more difficult for my wife to bonk me on the head with her paddle …

Unless she takes yoga…