An Out-the-Gate paddle is a right of passage for sea kayakers in the Bay Area. Not just anyone can paddle out under the Golden Gate Bridge and see the unique view of San Francisco from the other side. Intense currents flow through the gate four times a day: twice into the bay (flood) and twice out of the bay (ebb). These tidally-driven currents can be incredibly fast (over 5 mph - 1 or 2 mph faster than a typical sea kayaker), but luckily they can be planned-for well in advance by looking at local tide tables (http://tidesandcurrents.noaa.gov/curr_pred.html).
Wind and waves are harder to plan for, as these can only be predicted a few days in advance, and with less accuracy. The forecast called for high winds, and the previous day had been incredibly windy (gusts of 30 mph). William, who was planning to drive down from Redding (4 hours), cancelled because of the forecast. Alice and Johnny, who were both coming from San Francisco, noticed white caps as they drove across the GG Bridge. We made a plan: paddle out to the Gate, regroup, take a look around, and make a decision.
Some time later we found ourselves fully out-the-Gate and paddling past Kirby Cove - a common destination for sea kayakers and campers alike. We paused to take some cliche-yet-necessary photos while trying not to lose too much ground, as the waves and wind pushed us back under the bridge. The rare view of San Francisco below the GG Bridge was crisp and dramatic, thanks to incredibly clear conditions. It was fun to imagine the Gate without the Bridge in place -- what the European explorers must have seen when they stumbled upon San Francisco Bay in the 1700s.
After 45 minutes of chit-chatting and recovery we launched into the growing surf zone. I launched first with some help from Alice and Johnny. Alice launched next, receiving a smack in the face from a big breaking wave and losing her favorite water bottle in the tizzy. Johnny rescued the water bottle and launched without too much trouble.
Date: May 11th, 2014
Duration: ~3 hours (including long break on the beach)
Distance: 5.5 miles