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Treasure Island to Emeryville ‘Glidezilla’ Downwinding event thrills paddlers

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Glidezilla, a ‘mass SUP Downwinder’, took place on our bay last Sunday, August 6th. The inaugural, recreational event was created and coordinated by Emeryville Marina tenants Barbary Ghost and KGB Kiteboarding and co-sponsored by Mike’s Paddle of Alameda. “Downwind SUP” or just “Downwinding” is an emerging water-sport that involves surfing wind-swells over long distances.

Downwind paddling requires conditioning and some open-water experience according to event organizer Captain Drew Testwuide of Barbary Ghost charters. The experience of gliding on wind waves is described as a rush similar to surfing waves at the beach. While a traditional surfer might catch a dozen or so waves in a session, a downwind paddler can catch fifty or more waves over a five-mile run.

The diverse group of 28 were mostly Bay Area locals but included a few participants from as far as England. The paddlers, in their wetsuits and board shorts, first assembled at the fishing dock of the Emeryville Marina. The shuttle vessels then set sail on a choppy ride across the bay with wind blowing as high as 25 knots.

Downwinding requires balance, nimble foot movement and an acquired ability to read and anticipate waves. Stand-Up Paddleboards or “SUPs” are generally 12′ – 17′ long. Costs range to several thousands of dollars.

Boards were placed into the water at the rocky northern tip of Treasure Island for the 3.5 miles journey back to Emeryville. Paddlers launched into the waves riding swells that grew to as high as three feet. Some paddlers got tossed into the chop and clamored back onto their boards. Some kneeled for stability while paddling. The paddlers were escorted by Barbary Ghost and a jet ski from KGB.

Photo: Casey Tolan/Mike’s Paddle Facebook Page.

The group over the next hour would work up an appetite for the BBQ awaiting them back at the marina parking lot. All 28 paddlers returned safely and joyously well before sunset. The water becomes calm and still once inside the sea wall. The group paraded back to the fishing dock led by Barbary Ghost’s dog-mascot Niko.

Glidezilla paddleboarders return triumphant and happy to Emeryville Marina

Captain Drew says Glidezilla was San Francisco’s largest mass SUP downwinder and every participant has bragging rights to being part of the celebration of fun and fellowship. Feedback from the paddlers was overwhelming positive with long-time local paddler Dave Hook calling Glidezilla “the coolest, most fun event of the year.”

“The energy and camaraderie of twenty-eight paddlers packing onto the shuttle fleet, splashing at Treasure Island, and surfing 3.5 miles of party waves was awe-inspiring!” Drew noted in a follow-up email. Those interested in next years’ event should email Drew to get on their eNewsletter list or follow them on facebook.

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Cindy Warner

lives in Emeryville after finding a Bentley 38 sailboat at Emery Cove in 2014. She learned to sail at Cal Sailing and covered the America's Cup in SF. She grew up in the East Bay and finds the shoreline home. She has written on San Francisco Arts & Culture since January 2009, using her bicycle and public transportation to cover stories all over the SF Bay Area.

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