Rowing the Bay

We are blessed at Open Water Rowing Center with some of the most remarkable rowing waters anywhere. A morning row from Sausalito offers breathtaking views, abundant wildlife, comfortable temperatures and highly varied and challenging rowing. Yes, the fitness benefits are real and worthwhile, but a workout on the bay is also a mini-vacation, as good for the spirit as for the body.

Richardson Bay is just a small part of San Francisco Bay, but to the the newly certified rower heading out for the first time, it looks plenty big!  Learning rowing routes is a big part of your first months of rowing. For experienced rowers with rough-water certification, the number of possible routes to explore is larger still.

OWRC Webcam

Tides and Weather

You cannot row on this bay without thinking about the tides and the weather. As you spend time out there, you’ll come to understand and appreciate this unique natural environment. It’s always changing; in constant motion. 

Learn more about it here, and check latest conditions here.


The Bay is famed for it’s varied wildlife and we rowers get to see it “up close and personal”. Get the know “the locals” as you row in their world…

Choosing a route

Hang around our dock as rowers return and you’ll hear the same question repeated, “so… where’d you go today?”  Each section of the bay has its own character and it’s own response to our changing weather and tides.  Sharing tips on routes and the conditions of the day is a favorite pastime for OWRC rowers.

Your choice of route will determine the amount and intensity of exercise, the water conditions and winds, and the scenery and traffic too. We love the variety that our bay offers;  it means we can tailor our row to the day and our mood, but only if you know the special character of each area.

Speak to the staff and experienced rowers, of course, and read through these pages.  We’ve assembled some route suggestions with detailed descriptions, suitable for any experience level.

Ken Robinson in the early 1990s - this #3 Buoy is still an iconic mark on the Bay!

Ken Robinson in the early 1990s - this #3 Buoy is still an iconic mark on the Bay!

Landmarks, Channel Marks and other “Marks”

Since these are just about the only things in SF Bay that are not in motion, they are very useful and important to know. They’ll help you find you way and track your distance, and challenging water conditions are often tied to a specific (and relatively small) location. Click below for details on our most used marks!


Richardson Bay / Novice Limits

Richardson Bay is our primary rowing area, and offers smoother (and faster) and more predictable rowing conditions, spectacular scenery, and room enough for long and satisfying workouts.

It’s not really the “novice area” as many of our most experienced and strongest rowers choose to do all their rowing within Richardson, but we do limit new rowers who are not certified for “Rough-Water” to this bay. 


Angel Island & Raccoon Strait

This beautiful area offers  a fantastic variety of conditions; a great place to start exploring when you are first certified for rough-water. Maps and route descriptions here.


Yellow Bluff & Golden Gate

Rowing to the bridge can be exciting, but the area has some risks to keep in mind.  Rowing beyond the bridge, for club boats, is strictly limited to organized rows and training sessions with a coach.  Learn where and when to row in this zone here.


Paradise and Red Rock

The eastern shore of Tiburon and the little island of Red Rock can provide a warm and protected row for those ready for longer distances. Learn about this long-distance route here.


Alcatraz and San Francisco Waterfront

It’s a thrill to row by these iconic landmarks, but the area has special challenges (shipping lanes, for example) and it’s a long way over there. Read our route descriptions for tips and suggestions.