The Delta is one of the premiere windsurfing spots in California. Thermal breezes travel up the long fetch of the Sacramento River generating great swell and chop for fun starboard air.
If you are an advanced windsurfer, you will love the swell for riding and numerous ramps for starboard jumps. Although the jumping direction is primarily starboard, several advanced sailors enjoy launching off the backside of the waves into incredible port air. Multiple sites have great stadium seating cleverly crafted out of driftwood or discarded windsurf boards for viewing the sailors having a blast, photographing the show, or for resting on between sessions. Launch site entry points range from easy sandy beaches to difficult levy rock walls. Fortunately, the RVWA/SIKO community has purchased and placed hundreds of sandbags on the more popular launches to make entry much easier on the more difficult launches.
A wide variety of equipment can by used in the Delta. There are sailing sights for everyone from the very young, to the confident beginner, to the most advanced sailors. The vast majority of sailing is done on short boards up through slalom boards. A good quiver of sails includes sail sizes from 4.0 to 6.0 – but the majority of your sailing will be on a 4.5 or 5.0.
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If you are a beginning windsurfer, Sherman Island, on the less windy days, is a great place to learn and practice the sport. There are several companies that offer windsurfing lessons or you can learn to sail from a friend. On the really light wind days, often the “Play Pen” cove is full of adults and children learning the sport. If the tide is out, the Play Pen has a shallow, sandy bottom that is idea for attempting to waterstart, learning to uphaul, and practicing various other beginning skills. Be careful of the small rock levy just before the main river and do not enter the main river until you have ample skills to handle the extra current and know how jibe, uphaul, or waterstart to safely maneuver around and be able to return. If the tide is ebbing, the current is too strong to swim against and it will drag windsurfers downriver if they do not have enough wind or know how to sail their way back to their launch site. If the tide is flooding, the current will drag the unskilled sailor upriver. If you find yourself caught in the current, never leave your board. You can not swim against the current and a swimmer is harder to see from boats. Use your board for a floatation device to sit or rest on. Wave your arms in wide sweeps above your head to boats, other sailors, or kiters to signal for help. And remember that eventually the tide always turns and will drag you the other direction.
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Windsurf Launch Sites at Sherman Island
There are numerous launch sites for windsurfers at Sherman Island. Because windsurfers do not have long strings and kites that can entangle in the many powerlines around the area, there are many more sites for them than for kiters, so if you do launch at a kite specific launch, be respectful of their access rights and generally give them the right of way on and off the water. Especially be aware of their special launching and landing needs and allow them ample space, so they can handle their kites safely. See the Sites page for a more detailed description of all the great sites and locations. Back to Top
Sherman Island County Park Guidelines
Sherman Island County Park established kiteboarding and windsurfing guidelines for safety reasons. Please read and be respectful of them, so we all can continue to maintain our privileged use of the County Park beaches.
- Reserve the inner 200 foot area of all beaches for launching, landing, and
- Body Drag (upwind) or windsurf cautiously out away from shore especially on
- All Kiteboarding and Windsurfing tricks and jumps should be completed outside of the 200 foot safety limit, usually set by marker buoys. If the marker buoys are not in place, the guideline should still be respected.
- Always look before you jump. Please be courteous to all other park guests and users.
- All Kiteboarding activities are not allowed in the large sandy cove swimming area known as “The Playpen” near the front entrance of the park.
- Please learn and follow the “right of way rules” when on the water. You can brush up on those rules at Wikipedia’s International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea, Section II (for vessels in sight of one another).
Click here for Wikipedia’s definition of a vessel.
- By law, all vessels are required to avoid collisions, including vessels
with the rightof way. Back to Top
Cooperation on the Water
It’s important that Delta windsurfers and kiters recognize the different ways their crafts move over the water. The different styles of riding make it necessary to constantly be aware of others and where their particular sailing/kiting reach will take them. When the wind really picks up, it get’s more crowded on the water, and everyone is excited to jump and ride waves. That’s when it’s even more crucial for everyone to respect one another because the force generated by high winds can have a devastating effect if we run into one-another or an obstacle. Remember, everyone’s out there to have a great time on the water while staying safe, so we can all enjoy the whole summer. Back to Top
What to wear
Some wear only shorts or swimsuit and a harness. Most people bring a shortie wetsuit for the warmer afternoons and a full length suit for the Dawn Patrol or the colder days when the fog from the bay chills the air. Always be aware of hypothermia risks and dress appropriately for the conditions. Whether windsurfing/kiting barefoot or wearing wetsuit booties, always be careful of glass or other sharp objects that may be on the river bottom when stepping off your board. Back to Top
Wearing a lifejacket while windsurfing or kiting is a personal choice. For details regarding California Lifejacket Laws for children and adults on other watercraft, view
California Marine Laws. Back to Top
- Ask experienced Delta sailors/kiters for the local knowledge regarding launching, landing, or kite handling. Each beach has its own system and flow.
- Keep water access points and the paths leading to them as clear as possible by stacking your gear out of the way. It’s safer for others and for your gear.
- Don’t sail/kite close to swimmers to spray them. They’re entitled to share the beach. Be especially careful around children sharing the beaches. We are all at risk of losing our access if other water users complain about our conduct.
- Don’t kite inside the shallow water at the entrance of the County Park in “The Playpen”. High performance windsurfing should also not be done in this area if it’s crowded. “The Playpen” is strictly reserved for swimmers, children, lessons, and beginning windsurfers.
- Always do a full head twist look before you jibe or change direction. Kiters and Windsurfers already on a path have right of way to those changing direction. If there is a kiter or windsurfer in the path of your jibe or direction change, change your course or drop in the water and allow the kiter or windsurfer to continue their path. If jibing or changing direction near shore, be aware that you still may not have right of way and refer to information above.
- Be aware and courteous of kiters or windsurfers wanting to jibe or change direction when close to shore.
- Always jump and do tricks a safe distance from shore and congested areas. People will still see your moves and will appreciate you more for respecting kite launch and landing sites, swimmers, fishermen, and windsurfers.
- Grab your camera shots away from congested areas as much as possible.
- Kiters – Respect popular windsurfing zones especially during higher wind times. Kiters, especially when jumping, need a lot more room than windsurfers. Spread out and avoid the crowded windsurfing areas.
- Take a few minutes to learn how to launch and land a kite so you’ll know what to do if asked to help.
- Be alert for kite landing signals and help catch kites if you know how.
- Keep an eye out for fellow kiters/sailors in trouble and be willing to assist them.
- Act safely around others. When upwind of others, don’t jump so closely that your flight could carry you into them. Hold onto your gear rather than jumping and letting go.
- Starboard tack has right of way – back to the wind, right hand toward the front of your board. This is to avoid the confusion that could lead to a collision. Do not drastically veer off your course to enforce starboard right of way. It creates confusion and can lead to collisions. Be aware of Starboard wave riders and pinch above their course. Be aware of Starboard jumpers and pinch way below or way high above their course.
- Don’t pinch upwind to force others off their line. There’s lots of river and yielding right of way doesn’t take much effort.
- Kiters should avoid pinching just upwind of windsurfers whenever possible since that places the kite lines just over the windsurf mast and risks a tangle. It’s easy to drop below then point after the windsurfer passes.
- Don’t short jibe your fellow kiter or windsurfer to try to snake their wave. Karma will get you!
- Be alert for hidden stumps, rocks, logs, old piers, and other water hazards.
- Be careful of broken glass in the shallow water and clean up any pieces you find to keep others from being cut.