Coyote Point Swimming Notes

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I’ve been swimming at Coyote Point off and on since 2010. Here are some of my notes & links to useful information that might be helpful to other swimmers.

If you’re interested, check out the Facebook group for the Coyote Point Swimming Club. This is an informal group I organized to share information and organize weekend swims.

Peninsula Tri-ers is a Meetup.com group that swims regularly at Coyote Point and other locations around San Mateo and Foster City.

Conditions

The swimming is best in the early morning, before the wind picks up. After 8-9 am, there’s usually wind, and that makes it choppy and unpleasant. Also, if it’s windy there may be sailboarders, and you don’t want to be in the water with them.

You’ll occasionally see fishermen in boats. They’re usually moving slowly and will watch out for you. But you should wear a bright swim cap anyway, for visibility. Some people like to tie one of those bright floaty inflatable buoys to themselves for extra visibility, but I don’t bother with that.

Before you go, you might want to check a few things.

In general, low tide levels will bring muddier/cloudier water, and high tide levels will be somewhat clearer. You can swim in either, but some people prefer the clearer water. When there’s a very low tide (less than 2 feet above the “0.0” line on a tide chart), the water is really shallow. It can get as low as knee high across the entire stretch from Coyote Point to Fisherman’s Park. The bottom is squishy and gross, and with water that shallow, it’s not the best time to swim. Wait for the tide to go above 2′ on the tide charts.

Currents are usually pretty mellow to nonexistent, but can occasionally pull hard, particularly past the rock as you head toward the breakwater/jetty guarding the marina. Note: on a flood tide, the current will be flowing east, out of the Coyote Point cove, which is the opposite of what you might expect. Pay attention — it might be a lot harder to swim back than it was to swim out!

If you’re just getting started in open/cold water, stick close to the beach and the buoys. You won’t be bothered by any currents, boats, etc, and it’ll be easy to go ashore if you get tired or cold.

Here’s a more complete (and complicated) set of tide, current, and weather conditions at Sat Francisco, from NOAA. I haven’t fully figured out the currents around Coyote Point, but generally it seems that on an incoming (flood) tide, the currents flow counterclockwise around the cove, from Fisherman’s Park out around the point towards the jetty by the harbor — in other words, West to East; and on out outgoing (ebb) tide, they flow clockwise, from East to West. Here are NOAA’s tidal current predictions off Coyote Point.

How cold is it?

Depends on the time of year. In the summer months through October, it’s usually in the 60s to as high as 70-71F. In the winter, it goes down to the high 50s or even (brr) low 50s.

You may want to wear a wetsuit — lots of people do. But in 2015-2016, I’ve been swimming without a wetsuit all year. YMMV, but in my opinion, it’s not difficult when the water is above 62-65F, but below that it definitely takes some getting used to.

Check out NOAA’s historical averages for Redwood City water temperatures by month. (That’s in Celsius: 20 degrees C = 68 F; 15 degrees C = 59F; 10 degrees C = 50 F.

Or check out current water temperatures all along the central Pacific coast.

Location

Here’s a Google Maps link to Coyote Point Beach. Directions: Follow Google Maps directions to Coyote Point Park. As you enter the park, there’s a gatehouse. There will be rangers there who will charge $6 per car after about 8am, but if you enter before the rangers are there — or you’re on foot or on a bike — you can get in for free. Immediately past the gatehouse is a road going off to the left, to Magic Mountain and the Beach Picnic Area — don’t take that one. Take the *next* left. Follow the road a couple hundred feet to a big parking lot on the left. Park there. The beach is right in front of you.

Note: If you come often, you can get a San Mateo County parks pass for $60 that will get you into Coyote Point and any other county park for free for the next 12 months. Ask the ranger.

There’s an outdoor shower next to the bathrooms, to the right of the beach. It’s not warm, but usually not freezing! If you want a hot shower, down by Boardsports California, about 100 yards away, there is a bathroom with hot showers, but you’ll need to bring quarters to make those operate.

Where is Coyote Point Beach? Right here.
Where is Coyote Point Beach? Right here.

Distances

Distance between the buoys: about 70-75 yards. Six loops around them would be 900 yards, which is about half a mile.

Distance from the beach to the point off Fisherman’s Park (the point you see off Burlingame, to the left): about 0.5 mile. So there and back is almost exactly a mile — maybe a little less depending on how low the tide is, or a little more if you’re not going in a perfectly straight line.

From the beach to the first rock on the right, then to the second rock, and then back: about 3/4 mile.

From the beach to the right, around the rocks, to the end of the breakwater guarding the harbor, and back: About 1.2 – 1.3 miles? Warning: There can be strong currents at the end of the jetty. Be alert and swim with care.

Wildlife

I’ve seen seals checking me out, and lots of seagulls, pelicans, and hawks soaring above the water and above the trees on the point. I’ve never encountered jellyfish, sharks, or anything bothersome, but you never know.

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Footnote: If you occasionally swim in Aquatic Park in San Francisco, as I do, you may also want to see water quality warnings for San Francisco beaches.