Know before you go...
Know the Wind!
Before planning your kayak or paddleboard outing in Morro Bay, it's a good idea to have a solid understanding of the present and near future wind forecast. Wind in Morro Bay's harbor can change rapidly in both direction and speed. Paddleboarding in wind above 10 miles per hour is difficult for most paddlers. Kayaks have a much easier time handling both wind and tidal current. If in doubt, take a kayak! Remember to travel against wind or tidal current first, then come back with wind and/or tide at your back. As a rule, it takes twice as long to paddle back against the wind or tidal current!
Wind direction is just as important as wind speed when planning a kayak or SUP outing. In Morro Bay's harbor, a westerly wind is the best direction because you won't be faced with paddling into a headwind either way you travel the length of the harbor. A westerly wind, however, means that you will paddle more on one side each direction. Be cautious of paddling near the exposed waters (from Morro Rock outward) when there is strong offshore winds, as you may be blown into very choppy water with stronger currents. If the tide is outgoing, there is added risk of being pulled toward the entrance of the harbor which can be dangerous at times.
Know the Tides!
In a 24 hour period there are usually two high tides and two low tides. It's very helpful to know when the high and low tides are before hitting the water. If you plan to explore the "back bay," you will want to do that when the tide level is about 3 ft. or more, especially if you intend to paddle outside the main deeper channel. When the tides are over 5 ft. there is enough water to get you into the farthest reaches, such as Shark Inlet. Just make sure you leave the back bay areas as soon as the tide begins to drop, and the tidal current begins to flow out of the estuary. Otherwise, you may find yourself stuck in the mudflats! If the tidal current is stronger than the wind speed, paddle against the current first.
Know the Place!
Morro Bay is normally a very friendly place to enjoy kayaking or paddleboarding. It's' always a good idea, though, to know the layout of a paddling location, even if it's an enclosed flat water environment like the Morro Bay harbor. Know where the tidal flats are to avoid getting stuck in the mud. Know where the navigable channel boundaries are (normally marked by red and green buoys). It's also good to know any sensitive plant or animal habitats are. Morro Bay National Estuary Program (MBNEP) is a great resource for everything concerning Morro Bay's harbor. The map to the right shows the main channels as well as tidal flats. Morro Bay's harbor is roughly 4.5 miles long. At the highest tides (near 6 ft.) paddlers can enjoy cruising along the sand dunes of the back bay. Normal tides are more near 3 to 4 ft, and the depth reduces to about a foot or so closest to the dunes. At lower tides, paddlers are mostly restricted to the main channel (dark blue). Kayaks are better in shallow depths as they lack the fin that a paddleboard has.
Know the weather forecast
It's good to know what is happening right now in terms of air temperature, water temperature and if there's a chance of rain or lightening. But, it's also important to know what might happen with the weather a few hours past your planned outing time. Morro Bay's weather can change very rapidly. A warm morning can give way to cold, foggy conditions with little warning. It's not uncommon to paddle in short sleeves in the morning hours, but then need a thermal layer in the afternoon of the same day. Morro Bay's water temperature is on the cold side all year long, ranging from about 52 in winter months to 64 degrees F by September. Considering what to wear or what time of day to paddle will make your experience more enjoyable. If the air and water temperatures are both below 60 degrees F. you might want to wear a wetsuit/drysuit while paddling. If it's stormy, make sure to check the chance of lightning! The last place to be during lightning is on the water. For useful information concerning lightning, check out this link. Stay safe!