Amazing views and very challenging paddling! Paddling around the Golden Gate Bridge is always an undertaking but if you have the right experience and conditions, it's worth every stroke. The views of the pacific ocean through the Golden Gate is timelessly classic, the Marin headlands is green and gorgeous and really, very few people can say that they have paddled under the bridge.
On January 10th, 2017, I paddled from Crissy Field to Sausalito alone. It was psychologically and technically challenging to do it by yourself. I had paddled in the area many times in various crafts, but doing it by yourself increase the risk quite a bit. There was a break in the storm and the weather had turned sunny. The wind was blowing from the west at 10 mph, which wasn't much but just to be safe I made the following plan. I waited until the tide was flooding so that if anything happened I would get pushed into the bay. I also waited until the flood tide was receding so I can paddle agains the tide and wind. Several other options were considered: if the wind was too strong, I would paddle to Angel Island and wait till the tide was ebbing so I can slingshot around Angel Island. If I couldn't paddle agains the flood tide or wind, I can always paddle back to safety at Crissy Field, Aquatic Park or other parts of San Francisco waterfront.
It turned out that neither the wind nor the current was that strong, so I was able to make it to the south tower of the bridge relatively easily. I checked the tanker schedule and made sure I cross the channel between two big tankers leaving the bay. The tankers kicked up 4 foot waves and made of mess of things so I paddled on my knees part of the time. All told, it only took me 45 minutes to cross the Golden Gate but it was exciting to say the least.
Once I got to Fort Baker, it was easy pickings. Paddling around Yellow Bluff is always fun because there are some great standing waves there. It's a nice park and play area to paddle between Fort Baker and Yellow Bluff to surf. The rest of the paddle was uneventful, although you do have to watch out for the Sausalito Ferry and hold your nose when you pass by the Sausalito Sewage Treatment Plant.
Put-in: Crissy Field is a great place for paddlers. The SFOCC (San Francisco Outrigger Canoe Club) has a location at Sports Basement parking lot and they have regular practices there. The beach is friendly to both kite/wind surfers and paddlers.
Take-out: There are multiple places to put-in at Sausalito. There's a public ramp next to the restaurant Salito/Bar Bocce - parking can be difficult to find there. There's the public Dumphy Park and a nice little beach favored by kayakers and paddlers. There's also another public beach and a dock near the Bay Model.