How to Go Kayaking in San Francisco for $5.25 and No Car
The two half drysuit-clad figures wearing large gray boxes on their backs drew a few stares, but there are much crazier things that happen in this city. Most people contemplated the sight for a half second, then looked away, a slightly puzzled expression crossing their face. My brother and I were on a mission to kayak the San Francisco waterfront, using only public transportation.
The two half drysuit-clad figures wearing large gray boxes on their backs drew a few stares, but there are much crazier things that happen in this city. Most people contemplated the sight for a half second, then looked away, a slightly puzzled expression crossing their face.
My brother and I were on a mission to kayak the San Francisco waterfront in our Bay STs, using only public transportation.
At six in the morning, we dropped down the BART stairs and slid through the turnstiles with only a slight bump. Early morning is an excellent time to catch the train while lugging kayaks. We found a prime and vacant Oru-sized nook that comfortably fit two boats. Only nine minutes later we popped out of the tunnels and emerged a few blocks from the waterfront.
A set of stairs just south of the Ferry Building seemed like a decent, if slightly dubious spot to get in. We found a quiet piece of the pier and broke out the kayaks. Our second time ever assembling the boats was much faster than the first, and we shoved off just after sunrise.
There’s a lot going on near the Ferry Building, especially as the morning commute begins, so I was on high alert as we paddled out, watching the movement of the ferries, tug boats, and container ships. We took refuge under docks occasionally, exploring small nooks that only a kayak can fit into.
Luckily, we had a two knot current with us, which made the paddling super casual. I’d recommend checking the currents before you go with DeepZoom, a free online tool (deepzoom.com). One of the best things about paddling on a river is that you’re traveling with the current; riding the tides is a similar feeling.
After just a few miles, we pulled into a beach on the north end of the city that I identified using the Bay Area Sea Kayaker’s Planner Tool: bask.org/trip_planner/. We folded the boats and walked a few minutes to a bus line. Morning commuters were starting to arrive, so I was glad that we got on at the beginning of the route. Two kayaks were a little tight in the bus, and some seats have a lot more room than others- definitely not recommended for a super crowded bus.
It really is amazing how much better a day is when you’ve been in the water, even briefly! I’m going try and incorporate some more current paddling into my week.
- BART to put-in: $2.50
- Bus to takeout: $2.75
- Go off-peak to find a non-crowded BART or bus
- Check deepzoom for current tide/current info: deepzoom.com/
- Check BASK for entrance/exit points: https://www.bask.org/trip_planner/
- Remember to check the wind forecast too