Berkeley and Beyond (or things to do at the US Surfski Champs!)

Tuesday, 26 July 2011 06:27 | Written by  John Dye and Helen Workman
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Berkeley and Beyond (or things to do at the US Surfski Champs!)

Hey! Welcome to the Bay Area!  Come in; don’t mind the piles of wet boating gear.  Sure you can crash on the couch!

Rested?  Good.  Helen and I have assembled a brief resource guide of a few things to do.  You’ve probably got all of 43.7 hours before your departure flight and have to fit it ALL in, so no time to waste. 

To Wit:


As the official city web site states, Berkeley is a little city with a big reputation.  Here you are likely to find tie-dye, Birkenstocks, men in pink leotards riding unicycles, cars with hundreds of plastic zebras glued to its body, a protest or three, students and academics or posers thereof, a plethora of international restaurants, pleasant sunny weather, and some darn good coffee shops that don’t start with S.  In other words, anything goes and we have it all. Here are a few suggestions from a couple of locals on what to do while the neoprene is drying on the hotel balcony.  Yes we did cover the wet gear already, didn’t we?

San Francisco

La Cuisine

Within walking distance from the hotel or via free shuttle by the Doubletree, are the Fourth Street shops, For the perfect pancake and breakfast served all day, try Bette’s Ocean View Diner, 1807 Fourth Street.

If you’re in the mood for Mexican, Picante, 1328 Sixth Street, is a popular local favorite, casual, fast, cheap and kid friendly, with homemade tortillas and hearty servings (try their carnitas plate por favor).

Having been raised by a Japanese waitress, I must admit to being somewhat of a sushi snob.  My mother’s advice has been to choose a Japanese restaurant where Japanese are the customers, and whether true or not, the vote goes to Kirala, 2100 Ward Street  There are many others in Berkeley but outside of a trip to San Francisco, this sushi bar and restaurant has been voted one of the best in the city for many years. The lines may be long but the service is good and they’ll have you seated and served in no time.  Oishii desu!

If you’re looking for typical American fare, plenty of beer, and the latest Giants game, go to long-time paddlers’ favorite the Pyramid Brewery, 901 Gilman Street, a short drive from the Berkeley marina.  A renovated warehouse, it offers plenty of indoor and outdoor seating, brewery tours and even outdoor movies in the parking lot during summer months.  Two other East Bay landmarks, Brennan’s sports bar at 700 University Avenue and Spenger’s Fresh Fish Grotto, 1919 Fourth Street, are within easy walking distance from the hotel.  (As a personal side note, the old whaling harpoon gun in front of Spenger’s came from one of Helen’s step-father’s whaling ships when whaling was legal right here out of Richmond, California.)

The Emeryville Public Market is your best and cheapest alternative if you and your traveling companions can’t come to a consensus.  The food court there has everything from Thai and Vietnamese to Indian and Cajun to just plain pizza and burgers.

Higher Learning

UC Berkeley

The UC Berkeley Campus:

Entering Bear Territory, the University of California, Berkeley, is commonly referred to as Cal, also the top-rated public university in the country.  Having hung my work hat here for over 30 years before child labor laws were in effect, I am biased in my views, but it is a lovely campus rich in architecture, history, green lawns, world class sports facilities and libraries, a rugby team with 22 national titles, over 100 Olympic medals won by student athletes, and great coffee shops where coffee tastes like it should (see Strada, Berkeley Espresso, Milano for proof).  The campus offers tours seven days a week with reservations, but you can stroll the grounds on your own, walk along famous Telegraph Avenue, take a ride up Sather Tower for a stunning view of the bay, take the kids to the Lawrence Hall of Science, hike up the Strawberry Creek trail, buy your Cal gear, and have lunch (and more good coffee) at The Free Speech Movement Café.  Most importantly don’t wear red, the color of our rival in the south bay, and Go BEARS!!

Shaking Your Booty


If you need evidence that hippies and patchouli are alive and well in Berkeley, visit Ashkenaz in Berkeley at 1317 San Pablo Avenue. With a huge dance floor and known for presenting “world and roots” music, no one is a wall flower here because everyone just does their thing (it’s Berkeley, after all), sans partner or reservations, and you’re likely to meet people named Moonflower, Macrame or Aristole Starchild.  This club is one of the few that allow the under age to attend their shows.

The Saloon

The Saloon, 1232 Grant Street, dates back to gold rush days

Beyond Berkeley, more Evening adventures

San Francisco

A few years back, residents of the San Francisco’s North Beach area complained about the noise from weekend revelers.  Residents asked for a more restrictive noise ordinance to be adopted.  After careful consideration, one Supe laid down the law:  “San Francisco has always been a 24 hour town.  It’s going to stay a 24 hour town.”

With that approach to civic responsibility in mind, we overcome our annoying sense of responsibility and venture into San Francisco.  (Never called “Frisco” by locals but simply “The City.”)  If Latin musica is your thing, visit The Elbo Room in the heart of the Mission district.  Dark, crowded (hence their name, get it?) and dangerous (in a good way), you’ll mingle with a diverse crowd of hipsters, tourists, locals, and salsa dancers who make Dancing with the Stars look like kindergarteners playing ring around the rosy.  There is also Yoshi’s Jazz Club in both Oakland and San Francisco which headlines some of the best musicians world-wide.

Check out the Saloon A pre-earthquake (the 1906 earthquake), eclectic but friendly Dive / Biker / Blues Bar.  1232 Grant Avenue, San Francisco, CA (415) 989-7666.  Live Entertainment 7 nights a week.

(The Saloon is memorable best for the time a former roommate pulled me aside, pointed to a bar patron and exclaimed quietly, “That woman has a knife strapped to her thigh. She, I must dance with.”)

For adventures sans cutlery, just down Grant 2 blocks, I strongly recommend Café Jacqueline, an intimate romantic French restaurant, known for their Soufflés.  Four star dining at three star prices.  Reservations, a good idea.   Check out Specs’ Twelve Adler Museum, tucked behind Tosca on Columbus.  Not a Museum but another dive bar, quieter than the Saloon, across Broadway.

McCovey Cove

McCovey Cove, AT&T Park

If you are a baseball fan and arrive a few days early, plan to attend a Giants game at AT&T Park, one of the most beautiful ball parks in the country, or paddle out to McCovey Cove and be sure and keep an eye out for wayward baseballs.  Did I mention the SF Giants are the current Major League World Champions?


And these are the small ones.

Redwoods at Muir Woods National Monument, just 15 minutes from Saturday’s Start.

Another must do is to take a drive to and Muir Woods National Monument home to the world’s Tallest Trees, The Coastal Redwood.  Muir Woods is often chilly; I suggest going early before the crowds show up.  After the fog lifts, stop by the Marin Headlands YMCA and visit Point Bonita Lighthouse  From here you get an excellent view of the Ocean section of Saturday’s long course.  A stop at the Bay Model after this (see below) gives you a really good feel for the water features involved in the Race.

If you’re lucky enough to have the luxury of extra time visiting California, there’s also an abundance of wineries, mountains, parks and beaches.  Enjoy your stay, visit the sites of our sponsors, and don’t hesitate to ask any locals for suggestions.  The natives are quite friendly here.

Other Resources

Fast Food:

Sea Breeze Market & Deli ½ mile from the Double Tree Hotel

598 University Avenue, Berkeley, CA 94710-1625 (510) 486-0802.  For those running shuttle from the hotel to any paddling spot on the bay, this is the most convenient spot to grab lunch or breakfast on the go.  Dining is at outdoor picnic tables.  Food, 2 stars, Convenience 5 stars.

Forgot your leash?  Need a lifejacket, cause us overly cautious Americans are SO over the top on that safety stuff? United Airlines lost your whole kit?  No problem:


California Canoe & Kayak.

Probably the most complete selection of Paddle Sport Gear on the West Coast and a generous sponsor of Wavechaser and the U.S. Surfski Champs.  Local Epic Dealer.  About 18 minutes from the Doubletree Hotel by car, down Hwy 80 to 880 at Jack London Square in Oakland.  Directions:

Sports Basement

Located right off of Crissy Field, an excellent Beach access spot for those staying in San Francisco.

Bay Model

Your Tax Dollars at Work. 

The Bay Model, complete with labels and a Gift Shop.


Is C-U-R-R-E-N-T a new vocabulary word for you?  Even if it is not, check out The Bay Model.

A real life scale model of the bay, covering about 2 acres.  In short, it rocks.  A must for those interested in learning and then exploiting the current advantages on race day.  Located in Sausalito.  Call 415.332.3871 to confirm the schedule.  Ideally you want to be there during a flood and ebb cycle to observe the currents. /

Regarding paddling on the Bay:  For both speed and safety, keep an eye out behind you.  Local races can be won and lost due to tug boat wakes and the alert paddler who sees them first.  Avoiding a 800 foot long tanker is best planned out, rather than done at the last minute.  And bring a hat, mate, a warm one. The water temperature is chilly here, even in summer, and the fog can roll in any time, transforming sunshine and mid 80’s to chilly, damp mid 50’s, howling winds and chop to match (oh, please, oh, please, oh, please!).

No-shuttle paddles:      

  • Berkeley to Angel Island and return:  Simple.  Right out from the Double Tree hotel.  Suggest going around Angel Island to the North, counter clockwise.  Typically this way you get the best down winds going back to the hotel.

Berkeley to Treasure Island and return. 

  • Also Simple.  Good for a Southwest wind, surfing back to the Hotel.

Downwind Runs:          

  • Fort Baker to Berkeley.  This is essentially the short course.  You can alter, go closer to the San Francisco Shore, etc. as you see fit.  For a longer paddle, simply proceed out the Gate before heading to Berkeley, BUT, check weather and tide first.

Ocean Workout:         

  • For those hanging around the Bay Area longer, head down the coast.  ½ Moon Bay, Davenport, Santa Cruz all offer good runs

Berkeley Paddling and Rowing Club:

  • Standard Tuesday and Thursday Morning workouts at 7:30 am.  Just across the freeway from the hotel.  Good spot to hook up with a few local paddlers, arrange future boating safaris.  We  will probably move the workout over to the hotel for the week preceding the race. and This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Steam trains!

The Steam Locomotives at Tilden Park.  Ride and Ride again

For those traveling with families, young kids

John Dye Lives in San Rafael with his wife and daughter.  He hopes to experience this year’s Champs from an upright vantage point.  He can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Helen Workman lives in Berkeley and grew up in San Francisco.  When not organizing Wavechaser and the U.S. Surfski Championships, she manages to find time to paddle outrigger canoes with Hui Wa’a Outrigger Canoe & Kayak Club, and according to urban legend, has occasionally been sighted in a surfski. She can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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