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Exercise caution when out on the water

Published on April 6th, 2022

The extreme winds and current on San Francisco Bay make it a hub for boardsailing, but it is now without risks, and the conditions required the U.S. Coast Guard to answer the call for a distressed sailor on April 2, 2022. Here’s Michael Samols’ report:

I am a seasoned wind surfer who has sailed under and around the GG Bridge for over 20 years. I pride myself on my conservative judgment and my ability to assess the conditions. However, this time there were some failures on my part that led to my needing to be rescued.

First, I am learning the new sport of wing foiling and my skills with this new sport are not yet as strong as my windsurfing, and failed to take this into account when heading to the North Tower. Second, I went out on a brand new board that is much smaller than my other boards. Initially I struggled on that board before figuring it out after about 30 minutes.

However, I erroneously thought I could get going on that board even in the wild conditions of the North Tower if I were to go down. I should have spent more time practicing on that board before heading to the bridge. Specifically, my ability to get going in lighter wind was a known weakness for me on the new board and I did not take into account that the wind would be a lot lighter outside the bridge if I were swept out.

Third, I was so focused on learning my new board that I didn’t fully appreciate the conditions, specifically how light it was outside the bridge compared to the prior day. These judgment errors all compounded when I fell at just the wrong spot under the North Tower.

Within seconds the ebb swept me into the tumultuous section of waves under the bridge and I had trouble getting into the standing position quickly. Then only a minute or two later, I had been swept out well past the bridge into a lighter wind area. At this point, I failed repeatedly to get going again due to the combination of light wind, new small board, less advanced skill set.

The current is incredible strong at max ebb and I was heading out past Point Diablo. I carry a radio and had unhooked the bag in which I carry it on my harness when I realized a sailboat was approaching. They told me they had called the Coast Guard for a rescue.

I am extremely grateful for the crew of Golden Gate Station and other staff who assisted in my rescue. Feel free to share this account if you think it will help others avoid my mistakes.

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