Pretend you’re in SoCal and learn how to surf
OK, it’s colder up here, and kind of hard. But you can take a beginner surfing class down in Pacifica to get started, or ride the gentler waves out in Bolinas before you tackle Ocean Beach and Fort Point. If you want something even faster and trickier, try windsurfing (or the increasingly popular kite-surfing). California Windsurfing, off the Foster City Lagoon, is a low-key way to get started. We’re not going to lie to you: unlike SUP, surfing and all its variations are really hard to learn... even the basics. So, you know, make sure you know what you’re doing before hitting any massive waves.
Rent a wetsuit and take the plunge
Yeah, yeah, you’ve probably splashed around in the water... but truly swimming out in the Bay is a different beast entirely. While some intrepid swimmers take the plunge in just their swimsuits, the water is too cold for most of us -- the water’s typically in the high 50s. However, there’s a way to add a layer of protection against the elements: grab a wetsuit. If you’re not into committing to owning one, you can grab a rental at Sports Basement. Jump in at Aquatic Park, and you’re bound to see other swimmers, or join a group session -- Water World Swim hosts them. Start out in protected coves before venturing farther into the deep. You’ll want guide boats or an organized event if you plan to head into open water; you don’t want to get stuck out there with a shipping boat bearing down on you. Both the Dolphin Club and the South End Rowing Club have facilities at the east end of Aquatic Park, and regular club swimming events. For a $10 day fee, you’ll even get access to the Dolphin Club’s lockers and showers for after your swim (worth it).
Throw down on a booze cruise
If all of these things feel just a little too, uh, active, then there’s always another way to get out on the water. Take a booze cruise around the Bay and out under the Golden Gate. Try a wine-tasting Bay cruise or rent out a whole boat with your friends. Ruby Sailing costs $400/hour for up to 28 friends, and Just Dreaming has a $36/hour (per person) open bar option. Just hold on to your glass when the waves start to roll.
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Kelly O’Mara has written about vegan delis, cancer-sniffing dogs, and Olympic athletes. Follow her to learn more about triathlon and the Bay Area than you ever wanted to know @kellydomara