Ocean Beach Ė Kellyís Cove Windsurfing Guide
First, what you WILL NOT find at Ocean Beach: sand spurs, man-o-wars, deer flies, turtle grass, red tide, shells, water spouts, box jellies, shallow water, prickly pears, skeeters, oyster bars, bulls, fickle winds, user fees, crab traps, sting rays, PCBs, gators, submerged debris, boat traffic, fishing line, cannonball jellies, lightning, no-see-ums, horseshoe crabs, stinging coral, spent syringes, high bacteria, rocks and rednecks on jet-skis. You're not in Kansas or even Crissy anymore.
What you will find: a clean sandy bottom, a broad sandy beach, expansive views of the Pacific, an adoring audience and consistent diurnal winds throughout the spring and summer with bigger blasts during the balance of the year.
Oh, and 2 more things: cold water and a chunky, unforgiving wave.
If youíre a
regular Bay-Area sailor, the cold water is not a factor. But for most sailors,
That said, there are a dozen or so local sailors who regularly risk rejection to exploit the adrenal-faculty-tickle this moving mogul course provides. †And a few more who confine themselves to the relatively flat water between break and beach occasionally sneaking out †to enjoy the rollers coming off the bar in the Potato Patch.
outside, the view is scenic with the Cliff House and
The wave at
On your board, currents are not much of a factor, but if you're broken down or separated from your gear, you are at risk of being moved some place you don't want to go, like out to sea, into the rocks or around the rocks into the Gate flow.
The channels (i.e. rip!) between Balboa and Fulton shift so don't expect them to always be in the same place. The rip is not visible from the beach although at times it appears the waves are a tad smaller in it. There is no hard fast rule. Best to go to OB on a day when the surfers are out and watch where they DON"T go. Pay attention to how they move up and down the beach and where they position themselves. This is usually a place where the currents are the least factor. Note how much paddling they are doing parallel to the beach. Better, ask the surfers about the current and where the rips are and which way things are moving. The currents generally run stronger in the winter months than summer. Kook-friendly Skokereport.com is a good source to gather recon pre-sesh.
If you're down in the break or outside and not going to sail back home, first get your bearing from Seal Rock or some fixed landmark to determine which way you are moving. If you're in the rip and being pushed out, work your way parallel to the beach and out of the rip. If you're just drifting up or down the beach, wave and wind energy will generally deliver you to the beach provided you don't traverse another rip.
Don't be passive though as voodoo runs deep in the currents at OB. In 2002, 10 experienced surfers were swept out of Kelly's and had to be rescued by the Coast Guard. More recently, a less experienced surfer had a very public and embarrassing Seal Rock moment. So swim! If you're not making progress, getting tired and cold, don't be afraid to signal for help.
Some Bay area sailors routinely carry a VHF radio in their fanny packs. If you plan on sailing to the horizon or flirting with Seal Rock on a south day, this would be good insurance. Or at least carry your double-zip-locked-baggied non-ATT cell phone which will work near shore. Otherwise, sailing with a buddy is always good. Unlike other popular Bay Area venues like Crissy or 3rd/Coyote, you are relatively close to shore at
One other thing, be mindful of the surge on big days. The high water mark can vary by 20-30 yards sweeping in unexpectedly and you off your feet.
Surviving The First Hit
injuries in the break are the result of body challenging gear to a game of
Hitting the eject button is counter-intuitive as the reptilian core is conditioned to hold on. And generally the core is right. But if you just launched a huge aerial gone terribly wrong or, your gear is directly between you and a 12í macker, you might want to consider this option. What you forfeit is the knowledge of where your gear is and being able to control it. You also still risk a strike as 12í mast or 8í board > 6í human. And youíre now a swimmer.
strategy is to put the death grip on the boom, pull it close and maintain
triangulation between board and sail. For the average typically overhead wave
this works pretty good. Ball up and hold the boom close as your shoulder can be damaged by mechanical advantage if
During the summer months when most of the wave is wind generated, the period is short. So once you go down and pop back up, you only have a few seconds to regroup before its game-on again. Thatís not enough time to position for a waterstart much less start so donít waste your time. Better to mitigate body and gear carnage by proper positioning. Swim to the tip of the mast, grab firmly, sink mast and yourself just before the wave breaks on top of you and prepare for acceleration. The good news is the break zone at Kellyís is rather thin and you will be pushed into the safe zone after only a few rinsings.
During the winter months the waves have more punch but with longer period so you have a few seconds more to restart.
is the tamest part of
Kellyís Cove phenomenon is a venturi
effect caused by compression / funneling of the wind against the 200í tall
A note about the OB-KC.com wind sensor: Because it is situated next to Sutro Heights (a hill), prevailing winds are difficult to measure from N to NE because they are blocked by the hill. From NE to S the wind is coming over and down low scale buildings and the park so it's dirty but more accurate than N to NE. As it starts to shift to the south, it compresses against the hill and is dampened. Measured speeds in this quadrant are lower than the beach a hundred yards west. As the wind clocks from SW to NW the compression diminishes and venturi (funneling) effect increases becoming maximum at NW. From this direction measure speeds are higher than the beach. Ergo, apply the following corrections when the wind is in the 12-25 mph range:
N to NE (0 - 45 degrees): not accurate, ignore
NE to SE (45 to 135 degrees): Use ~gust speed as average speed
SE to SW (135 to 225 degrees): Add 4-6 mph to average speed. Also factor gusts. If they are high, add a couple more mph to average.
SW to W (225 to 270 degrees): Add 2-3 on the SW end and less as you approach W
W to NNW (270 to 345 degrees): Subtract 1-2 mph near W and 3-4 mph as you approach NNW.
For prevailing winds above 25 mph, scale up the correction factor.
the mid March-to-late-August wind season, the wind comes to
General Tips For Windsurfing Ocean Beach
common mistake made at
Also consider a slightly bigger / on-shore fin which is steeper (less raked) than a side-shore fin. This will offset the effects of the current, help you plane quicker, make it easier to stay up wind in marginal conditions and help you punch through †the white walls should you wish to venture outside.
There is usually plenty of vacant space in the parking lot to rig. If you want to spare your boom asphalt-rash, you can rig on the beach although be sure to carry your board down first so you have something to anchor your sail to when you head back up for your wetsuit.
temperature at OB is consistently 50-55 degrees. Rarely it will
climb to the upper 50ís but almost never drops below 48 degrees. Given the many
thousand mile fetch of more 50 degree water, the air temperature is pretty
consistent as well. Only during the summer when there is a cut-off low or a
There are none. There are public restrooms at Judah and portable toilets in the Lands End parking lot.
Within a 5 minute walk of Kelly’s Cove you can:
Imbibe handcrafted beers and down some protein bites at Beach / Park Chalet.
Grab a sandwich or the daily special at Freddy’s Deli.
Pick up your beach picnic supplies at the Safeway.
Snag a Latvian beer or exotic chocolate at Eurpora Express grocery.
Treat yourself to a gourmet meal or classic cocktail at the historic and the highly rated Cliff House.
If you want to venture a little further afield consider the 1 mile trek to the south (15 minute walk) is the Judah Street Outer Sunset business district. A sampling includes: