Friday, September 13, 2013

Alameda SUP Circumnavigation

For the last few months I've been paddling with locals on these weekly Meetups in the Oakland estuary and have seen a ton of growth in the paddling skills of the participants.  It seemed appropriate that we all get together for an end-of-summer paddle that included a reasonable amount of mileage, current, wind, vessel traffic & chop.  Alameda was the perfect route to provide all these challenges.

The plan was to launch from Tidewater at 8:45am, circle Alameda counter-clockwise and return to the start by 3pm at the latest.  The planning accounted for the best use of current & wind and the weather forecast was highly favorable with light wind & warm temps.  We ended up launching 25 minutes late, but nobody cared since we were all just out to have a good time.  By the time all 19 of us set off into the current, the sun had already burned off the fog and was heating up.  The first 3.5 miles were the hardest, but we were fresh and everyone powered through to our first meeting point, where we dropped 3 paddlers who didn't have time to do the whole loop.  It was right about then that the shot blocks came out, layers stripped off, we re-grouped and charged on towards San Francisco Bay.

We kept steady pace through the long, straight estuary highway of ferries, tugboats, sailboats, fishing boats and speedboats - half of them heading out for Americas's Cup activities.  Sure enough, their large wakes rolled right across the channel towards us but weren't too bad.  The clapotis created by the rockwalls of the estuary put a few people to their knees.  We rounded the corner into the bay then celebrated with another long break while drifting down the bayside of the island.  After taking in food & water and the crystal clear view of the San Fran skyline we got treated to small bumps and mini-surfs heading towards Crown Memorial.

We made good progress traveling with the current & wind from our backs.  Approaching our fourth and last bridge, we were perfectly funneled towards our finish and moving fast enough that nobody cared for a break on land.  The sky was bluebird with just a cloud of smoke peaking over the Oakland hills.

We turned up the estuary to complete the loop and paddled straight into the wind we were so enjoying at our backs moments earlier.  As we all staggered to the dock full of smiles, we joked about another lap but decided to eat & drink instead.  High fives all around.  Fun people, fun paddle.  Can't wait till the next outing on Friday the 13th...