Strip away SoMa’s startups and what’s left of the Haight’s hippie havens, and you’ll find what makes San Francisco so special underneath it all: a picturesque, peninsular location that defines the city as much as its arts, tech, and politics. It’s the City by the Bay, after all, where islands are staple attractions, boating and boarding come in all shapes and sizes, and even committed swimmers brave the waters, which rarely warm up past 60 degrees Fahrenheit.
Late summer and early fall offer the best weather for most water sports, but you’ll see locals paddling around the bay and surfing the city’s beaches year-round. Consider joining them out on the water next time the sun peeks out from behind the fog, Karl, which like any self-respecting resident of the city that hosts Twitter has its very own account. Here are eight ways to enjoy the San Francisco Bay, and beyond, up close.