The SFBA's mission is protecting and enhancing recreational access to San Francisco Bay

As part of our ongoing outreach the SFBA would love to hear back on everyone's best practices around safety gear. And let's get specific. What brand? Where did you get it? Why do you like it? Feel free to share this around and either just add your thoughts to one of our social media posts or for more involved responses send us an email at sfbaboard(@)

To Kick things off the SFBA board met and discussed some of our favorites so let's take a look at what we have been using. But before we dig into gear we remind you of some simple non gear related things like….

    • Writing your name and phone number on all your gear
    • Sailing with buddies
    • Regularly testing your safety gear, especially electronics
    • Inspection your riding gear. Frayed lines, leaky bladders, old uni-joints, and loose screws can really ruin your day. 
    • Filing float plans (where you are going and when to expect you home) with friends
    • Detailed understanding of the days weather and tide forecasts

…..can be just as important. 

Some of the gear listed may be better for Kiteboarding than it is for Windsurfing. Foilers may also like something different. Harnesses and gear floation may impact what you choose.  First what to carry all this stuff in. 


      • The Fanny Pack. Fanny packs can be good for lower speed sports but we have found that in high speed sailing they can be less than secure. They also don’t hold all that much stuff. Lastly unless you find one with a side buckle you may find that buckle quite uncomfortable when having to lay on it on a long self rescue paddle. 
      • Preferred by the SFBA is the Camel Back style back pack but make sure its water designed with excellent drainage. These are repurpose hydration packs. Also regularly move any zippers so as to not experience zipper lock at the worst possible time. Minimum Size should be 3 Liters to carry what your need. 7 liters in size works but can be bulky while sailing. 
        • USWE 4l Outlander (pictured)

And now for the gear list. While some of this may be overkill for a day near the beach, sailing offshore or on longer one way trips you may consider the full monty. For now we’ll simply list it all and we can talk about when to use what later. Again let us know if you have better gear or improved ideas on how to store, maintain, and use it. 

      • The VHF Radio. While cell phones can be a back up they are notorious for not working when you need them. Counting on your Apple Watch? It was nice knowing you. While the recommended radio is waterproof we highly recommend keeping it in a water proof bag. This will ensure its not accidentally turned on during immersion. 
        • Recommended Model - Horizon HX210  
        • Note the SFBA’s How to use your radio guide is a great companion. 
        • Radio Bag. Get a roll top. No moving parts. Like the Aquapac Stormproof. For sure avoid plastic bar enclosures as they fail after repeated opening and closing. There are many good ones on the market.  
      • Whistles are a must have safety tool at all times. While the cheap orange whistles that come with PFD’s are ok the Jet Scream whistle is the preferred whistle of the SFBA.  
      • Kiteboarders should always carry a hook knife for cutting lines in an emergency. 
      • High Visibility Clothing/gear. Black wetsuits and white kites are the best way to hide yourself in a field of white caps. Orange and Yellow are the colors of choice. Adding a lycra top over your wetsuit and  wearing a bright colored cap are great ways to stand out. Also instead of making a fashion choice with that wing, kite, or sail consider the one that really pops with color. Rocking the hot pink kite, or dayglo harness just may save your life!
      • Paracord Bracelet. These little $8 items are awesome and we recommend having them sprinkled about your life. The are light and take up minimal space. They can be used for securing items during self rescue, towing a buddy, replacing a broken leash in an emergency, or in a worst case scenario for making a tourniquet. 
      • As a good back up for your battery powered devices you couls consider a signaling mirror. Small and compact and the batteries never die!
      • PFD’s Vs. Impact Vests. Having some flotation is a great idea at all times. While USCG PFD’s can at times be a liability, particularly in the surf, strongly consider them. Impact vests are also a great idea providing some buoyancy support and better areas of coverage for protecting the torso.
      • A proper wetsuit is always the way to go. It may be tempting to trunk it on a hot day but dress for the water temp, not the air. Each beach is different but the 4/3 wetsuit is a great baseline for sailing in San Francisco Bay. 
      • Booties. Keep you warm and help quite a bit for those long walks back to the car after breakdowns. 
      • Helmets can be a problem if they are too bulky and too floaty. Thin shell helmets like the Gath & Simba are a good start but really don’t possess the crush zone that the thick foam helmets provide. Just ask Kai Lenny. They are more comfortable and provide less deceleration to the neck when hitting the water at high speeds. They are recommended over the floatier helmets in the surf zone for this reason.  They are pretty pricey too. Dakine and Protec are inexpensive options that provide full protection. Make sure your helmet is certified EN 1385 Water Sport rated.
      • Eye protection. Glasses can be a liability and a savior. All those droplets can impair visibility, as can fogging, but if you have ever been blinded (like I have) by a stinging droplet to the eye it can be scary. We like Sea Specs & KRN Glasses as an inexpensive option but you will need to park your fashion sense to wear them. On the pricey side Barz Optics have been given some great reviews. All of them support prescriptions.
      • A good sunscreen. Make sure its reef-safe, mineral based, and does not make your hands slippery when using. Brands like All Good, Zinka, Blue Lizard, or Badger check all the boxes.
      • For ofthe hardcore offshore adventure and a solid VHF backup consider an ACR's "ResQLink AIS Personal Locator Beacon". Along with satellite this new-ish model includes Automatic Identification System (AIS) which may be picked up by ships/yachts which could be handy if you're stuck in shipping lane. 
      • Foil Drive. While these things are crazy expensive if you are a long distance sailor or just want to be the guy that can save a buddy with a tow we are big supporters of anyone who can afford having them. Wind dies at the Golden Gate on an ebb. No problem! Hey you could even whip out your paracord and tow a buddy to safety. 
      • First Aid Kit. Having  first aid kit in your car for the apres injury disinfect and bandage is a good call too. 

*Minimal kit:* VHF, Wetsuit, Phone
*In-between kit:* +PFD, +Hex Tool, +Helmet
*Maximal kit:* +Strobe, +Snacks, +Whistle, +Paracord

Again this post is the starting point for a conversation and getting your input so please let us know. We will take all the feedback and distill it in to a brand new Safety Kit Guide we will publish next month. 

Thanks, to everyone who contributed to this post. Let us know your thoughts, and que the video.......