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Barbary Ghost Downwind Safaris in San Francisco

Posted by SIC Maui on

When you think of downwinding, places like Maui and Tahiti usually come to mind, however for those living on the West Coast of the United States, you don’t need to travel too far to find epic downwind runs. Stand up paddling, and downwind paddling in particular, have been on the rise in the San Francisco Bay Area. With miles of open ocean and strong Pacific Northwest winds, not to mention incredible views of the iconic Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz, and Treasure Island, paddlers in the area and across the West Coast are making their way to The Golden City to try these runs for themselves. For the past six years,  Barbary Ghost, the Bay Area’s original SUP boat, has been at the forefront of the San Francisco Bay’s downwind SUP scene.

Barbary Ghost is a Coast Guard licensed charter boat that offers Downwind Safaris. The boat shuttles paddlers onto the San Francisco Bay to seek out the best downwind routes available under current conditions. Over the years, Skipper Drew Testwuide and his team have learned that when it comes to downwinding, you can’t rely solely on a smartphone app to find wind speed and gauge the conditions. Currents, fetch, water depth, pressure gradients, and more effect wind swell and Testwuide, who has delivered over 200 downwinders over the last six years, helps paddlers with this by sizing up the conditions and hunting down the best waves.

Once the route is defined, paddlers splash their SUPs off the boat’s custom rack system and mount from the padded swim deck before launching downwind into the wind swell. Barbary Ghost then escorts the group along the 5-10 mile run, screening for boat traffic, ensuring paddlers’ safety, and shooting stabilized GoPro video. This allows paddlers to focus all their attention on catching the next glide. At the end of the run, paddlers climb aboard to shuttle back upwind for another run. Barbary Ghost works as a floating base station and is equipped with an upper viewing bridge, lower sheltered cabin, restroom, changing room, dry storage area, field repair tools, first-aid kit, complimentary water and energy bars, and even guest towels.

Started in 2013,  Barbary Ghost has seen more glide sessions than anyone on the Bay and now in 2018, they plan to explore even deeper into the downwind odyssey, seeking fresh routes, new friends, and good times. Barbary Ghost's mission is to enable paddlers to experience the thrill of surfing wind waves with the safety, convenience, and comfort of a professional support boat.

“Downwind paddlers are a special breed, and I love hunting waves with them,” says Drew. “The SIC V2 Bullet is definitely the weapon of choice among our regular downwinders, and we’re incredibly appreciative for everything SIC does to promote the sport. In fact, our downwind community really started to take off after Jeremy Riggs taught the first clinic here in 2014. Funny story – last year we were finishing a downwind run when we heard someone yelling ‘SIC, SIC!’ from the shore. We paddled over to discover it was Mark Raaphorst himself who just happened to be visiting our area after the Gorge Downwind Champs and spotted us coming across the Bay.”

Downwind Safaris trips range from two to six hours and cost between $55 and $125 per person. Barbary Ghost offers a free Downwind Alert service that notifies subscribers by email when conditions are lining for an optimum downwinder. There is also a Downwind Safari Club whose members get discounted rates, free gear, and other perks. Last year the Club organized GLIDEZILLA a 36-person downwinder with ferry shuttles, support boats, and after-party in the parking lot. To learn more about the Barbary Ghost Downwind Safaris, watch the video below and visit their website HERE


About Barbary Ghost

Barbary Ghost is the Bay Area's original SUP boat offering stand up paddleboard tours. The boat serves as a shuttle and floating base station equipped with padded SUP racks and swim deck, changing room, restroom, dry storage area, fly bridge, field repair tools, first-aid kit, and complimentary water, energy bars, and guest towels. Barbary Ghost has been at the forefront of the Bay's downwind SUP scene for the last five years and continues to search for the best routes and most efficient practices to take the sport to higher levels. Choose from Scenic Tours or Downwind Safaris.