The good news about the Sacramento River Delta is that you have several options where you can launch from. Some are trickier than others, some have safer launch and landing areas, some can be combined with lodging opportunities.
This is what makes also the Delta great, offering a bit of paradise for everyone.
Sherman Island County Park
There are 3 beach entry points, but two of these are mostly restricted to windsurfers: the larger sandy Playpen, also used by swimmers and picnickers when the winds are light, and the Windsurfer launch. The one beach kiters can use is the Team Rio Beach.
You can launch from two areas:
- Either directly at the beach in a narrow flat area, about 30 ft (6 m) x 60 ft (20 m), nestled between bushes and reeds. The spot is small and only allow one kite landing / launching at a time, and tends to be busy as it is right by the entrance and exit points. This is however a safe strategy as it limits the time on land to the minimum.
- Or you can launch from a wider grass area by the parking lot. Though bigger than the beach launch, this is still small and tend to be packed with stacked kites and people setting up their gear, kids playing and dogs running around. This location also has a metal picnic rooftop downwind to the edge of the launch area. There is a wind shadow that makes launching and landing somewhat tricky. Due to its downwind position, it is not uncommon to see an overpowered kite taking off at launch and hitting that structure abruptly, sometimes with dramatic results and hurt kiters (dents on the roof are the remaining proof). Many choose this site to launch though, walking back and forth to the beach on two distinct paths, one to enter and one to exit to avoid ensure one-way direction each way.
With wind blowing onshore, and surrounding tule reeds, trees and blackberry bushes, there is in both cases little room for mistake and extra attention is required. Once in the water, you need to be able to do up wind right away or risk hitting shallow roots and edging bushes with potential serious results. Some prefer to play safe and body-drag first to put enough distance from the beach before getting on the board.
Busy weekends can see up to 70-80 kites on the water, even up to 100 on a 4th of July weekend if there is no wind elsewhere in the Bay Area.
A popular launch area during a few years with wide grassy open area, this is no longer available for kiting after an accident a few years back. This led to an ordinance establishing that no one can cross the county road with a kite flying high. You can however park there, and might be a good option when Sherman Island Park parking is full on busy weekends.
On the levee road just before entering Sherman Island County Park, this spot has gained on popularity after the shutdown of The Access. Right by the water, which helps avoiding any dangerous road crossing, this gently rolling grassy area is however tricky because of the wind shifts and the high levee.
This is the only launch area outside the Park. It has no parking fees per se though porta-potty is available during the summer months. The spot is maintained by RVWA / SIKO, a merger between two local organizations – the Rio Vista Windsurfing Association (RVWA) and Sherman Island Kiteboarding Organization (SIKO), RVWA / SIKO helps secure land management access and organizes access to different spots along the levees. Their management can be supported by a very affordable membership. Make sure to close the gates, to prevent resident cows to get away.
Primarily a windsurfing spot, this is the last exit point from downwind kitesurfers. This is however a tricky exit point, especially in high tide flooding condition.
Upper Sherman Island (Kitopia Island)
Located further down the river toward the Bay Area, the island can only be reached by boat or by kite. Wide and sandy, with the wind side-shore, Kitopia Island is named after the kiteschool that started using it for teaching lessons for beginner kiters, though the island is also used by other schools. Thanks to its remoteness, the area is not as crowded as the Park and is a good starting point for beginners and intermediate kiters to launch without the crowd and who want to do a downwind back to the park.
Updated information on current sites and conditions can be found directly on RVWA / SIKO website
How can I learn?
Over the years and thanks to the increasing popularity of kiteboarding, different kiteschools have pop-up around the Delta, most of them created by local kitesurfers seeing the demand in lessons and eager to help fellow kitesurfers on the water.
Managed by Donny and Sandy Parker, Kitopia kiteschool was opened in 2002 and provides lessons on land and on water. They can also organize downwind session from Kitopia Island, allowing beginners and intermediate riders to practice safely.
A former windsurfer and sail designer, Bruce Sheldon moved to the “dark side” as it is called by the windsurfers and became one of the first kitesurfer on Sherman Island. Bruce launched Sheldon Kiteboarding and provides lessons. He is also the representative for North and Ozone kites and offers repair services.
Which site is your favorite launch area? Bruno quite likes to launch right by the water, as it limits the time on land with the kite high. But everyone his or her preference!