With the return of the rains, we so desperately need there are some consequences to getting it all at once; Poo in the water.
And it's not just poo. There are all sorts of things that can make water quality a serious risk. While work still needs to be done San Francisco Bay is blessed with usually pretty clean bay water due to the tireless work of organizations like Baykeeper, Save The Bay, Surfrider & the California Water Board. However, when the rain overwhelms the sewer system direct untreated sewage finds its way directly into the Bay and there's nothing anyone can really do about it. This can be incredibly dangerous when bacterial concentrations hit dangerous levels and have even killed surfers (staph) in the past.
To help you understand the levels of bacteria in the water local municipalities are regularly monitoring and measuring the levels of key bacteria and reporting them. Here are a few sites where you can readings for your area. Some are daily and some weekly so please look before you leap.
- East Bay Parks Water Quality
- City of San Francisco Beaches & Bay Water Quality
- State of California Impaired Water Ways List
- South Bay Beaches and Creeks Water Quality
- Surfrider Blue Water Task Force (San Mateo Coast) - Learn More
In addition to bacteria, these large storms can also bring a lot more flotsam and jetsam into the water. So be aware while on the water that that small twig sticking above the surface may be attached to the whole tree under the water. It's not uncommon to see massive timbers and entire logs in large numbers as storms reintroduce them to our waterways.
Storm sailing also involves gusty winds from unpredictable directions. Days are shorter and colder and things can change quickly. As you tackle the winds of winter take extra precautions. Risk-taking is a calculated thing and it's definitely measured on a spectrum. Where ever you find yourself on the spectrum we hope you put the time and effort to really think your formula through in the most actuarial way. Do it with data, do it with planning & preparation, do it with friends, and do it with proper gear.
Please also make sure you have your name and phone number on every piece of gear that floats. Storms often separate you from your gear and finding gear that is unlabeled can result in a massive waste of safety resources when they are at their maximum stress point
Check out the SFBA Safety Guides for detailed information
Need a yardstick to help you measure risk? We really like the thoughts contained in this quick 4-minute video. Big Mountain Skiers, Big Wave Surfers, and Storm Sailors can all learn from this lesson.