In the one month that I’ve been living in San Francisco, this was the best experience so far. There’s a sense of thrill for activities where you take a sport to a more extreme level, kind of like going from indoor skydiving to actually jumping out of an airplane. Paddling in the Pacific Ocean from the Golden Gate Bridge to the Bay Bridge felt like that for me. I knew how rough the waves are in the Bay and thought you’d have to be an elite athlete to be in those waters.
From the get go, it felt epic with four 6-person outrigger canoes and several OC-1’s lined up on the beach at Crissy Field. It was a clear day so we saw the Golden Gate Bridge right behind us and the view was gorgeous. As we prepared to push off and dipped our feet in the water, we felt just how cold the Pacific water was. We slid the OC into the water and one by one hopped in – Orion, Monica, Amihan, myself, Wesley and Brandon in that order. And just like that, we were on the water with the most amazing view of the Golden Gate. There were no tourists taking photos or constructions blocking our view; it was just us, the water, and the bridge spanning across the opening of the San Francisco Bay. No words or photos can describe how great that felt.
We began our practice pieces paddling into the Bay towards the Bay Bridge. Along the way, we first passed by Marina Rock on the SF side and Alcatraz in the middle of the Bay. The water in that area was extremely rough with very strong waves that knocked us around, but we paddled through it and reached calmer waters at Pier 39. Further along, we paddled by the Ferry Building where it had the perfect unobstructed view of the SF skyline.
Not far beyond the Ferry Building, we crossed underneath the Bay Bridge and reached our turnaround point at AT&T Park. It was exhilarating to lift your head up to see the ama and the entire length of the Bay Bridge. The perspective of the bridge from the water is something you’ll never get on land and it’s worth all the effort to see it.
The journey back to Crissy Field was much more challenge with cross currents and a headwind. Our boat had to get back first, so we paddled straight back without taking breaks. It was a tough paddle back, but all six of us were in it together and it was a collective effort. We braved through the strong winds, the waves that came into the boat, and the fatigue that settled in and got back to the beach in about an hour. The entire trip came out to be 22 km (14 mi), but 22 km in the ocean was much more challenge but also exciting than on flat water.
Coming off the boat, I was still awed at how incredible the experience was. The views were amazing and paddling in the ocean was difficult but so much fun. It was awesome to see the boat maintain grit through the rough waters and how we all worked as one team. This was my first time on an OC-6 and I’m thinking of coming back, but this time with warmer clothes. Shout outs to the friends who brought me out and to SF Outrigger Canoe Club for the experience!