San Francisco Bay area weather is famous for changing quickly. Some areas within the bay have gusty winds when the rest of the bay is blessed with moderate breezes. Wind funneling through the Golden Gate opposing an ebb tide can create steep, chaotic standing waves that require advanced paddling skills. In the summer, fog banks roar through the Golden Gate spreading over large areas fast—faster than you can paddle. In the afternoon, the north-west wind often increases drastically, and can make paddling back to your put-in a challenge.
To understand Bay Area weather use local knowledge to determine the probable conditions in the areas you plan to kayak. Also, refer to the list of weather web sites listed below and check current conditions and forecasts on the Trip Planner section of this website. Forecasts for height and direction of ocean swells along the coast are quite reliable and available a few days in advance. But conditions on the ocean and in the bay vary widely and can change suddenly, so always be prepared and have a fall-back plan. (For the same reason, a fall-forward plan can also come in handy if conditions are better than expected!)
- The National Weather Service forecast for the San Francisco Bay Area and Monterey (same information as on the Trip Planner).
- Stormsurf’s Northern California Surf Report is a great tool to plan a coastal trip or a surf kayak outing. It has detailed forecasts for swell height, period, and direction; wind speed and direction; and surf heights. It also has some other useful tools.
- Surf kayakers find surf conditions for many beaches at Pacific Wave Rider.
- The CDIP and the Scripps Institution of Oceanography generate wave spectrum charts and computer wave height prediction maps in the California Swell Model page. This is a really cool image that tells you how high the swell will be in different bays and which direction the swell will come from. They also provide a three-day wave forecast.
- Scripps also builds a map with data from land stations, CDIP and NOAA buoys all combined on one map of Northern California.
- NOAA has an interactive map with current buoy data all around the world.
- The US Geological Survey and San Jose State University have an interesting site that includes a map showing real-time San Francisco Bay Wind Pattern Streaklines.
- Former BASKer Storm Steiger has a page with SF Bay weather tips, discussing and explaining seasonal and daily weather patterns.