Water Sports

Water skiing, wakeboarding, windsurfing, and personal watercraft sports are prime California Delta sports, something done year round here. There are water-skiing clubs in the Delta, one or more with ski jumps and slalom courses. Some stage competitive events. The Discovery Bay area represents a hotbed of water-skiing activity. Some of the best skiers in the world either hail from this area or train here.
There is no shortage of support facilities for the waterskier in the Delta area, varying from marinas that have most anything you might require, to waterski schools, and shops that specialize in skiing and wakeboarding  equipment. Some of the companies that rent houseboats also rent skiboats, runabouts or pws’s suitable for water-skiing.

Cool Water Skiing, Wakeboarding & Jet Ski Spots

Safety is a prime concern. It does not make good sense to ski or wakeboard on narrow winding waterways, when there are safer, wider, straighter waterways available. Too, the safety and enjoyment of a waterway can vary with the time of day, the day of the week, and the time of year. I know avid waterskiers who live in Discovery Bay who are skiing by 7 a.m. and back home by 9 a.m. Generally, boating traffic is light on weekdays, even in the middle of summer. And many waterskiers and wakeboarders pack it in after Labor Day, even though there may be six or more weeks left of balmy weather and smooth water.Keep in mind, this is a river system. The boat driver and the water skier should learn to watch for snags and floating debris, as well as other boaters. Enjoy.The letter-numeral designation used here indicates the location on the official Delta Chambers/Hal Schell Delta Map, available for sale from this site and also sold in most Delta-area marine stores and fishing outlets.

Bishop Cut.

This is a nice straight run from Paradise Point Marina north, but unfortunately has one 5 mph zone at a farmer’s dock. Many skiers extend the Bishop Cut ski run to include White Slough.

Disappointment Slough.

Islands run along the center of the slough and the long safe route is along the southeast side next to Rindge Tract. You have a clear run from the Deepwater Channel to Paradise Point — you can pass under the bridge there and continue for another few miles until it meets Fourteenmile Slough, which can be too heavily trafficked for safe water skiing.

Empire Cut.

This is a wide, straight route along Lower Jones Tract that on lightly trafficked days can be extended to continue onto Latham Slough , and then on to either Old River or Middle River in a generally northerly direction.

Grant Line Canal and Fabian & Bell Canal.

Another nice straight-line ski route. Fabian & Bell is the preferred route, for Tracy Oasis Marina occupies part of the Grant Line Canal. (This is like a single canal with a berm down the middle.)

Holland Cut.

Ski on the Holland Tract side of this waterway, which provides a long unimpeded route, which can see heavy traffic on summer weekends.

Mokelumne River, North Fork.

Except for the last mile or two on the Giusti’s end, this slough is wide enough for pleasant skiing if you use caution on several sharp bends. High levees give good wind protection and there are no marinas or docks on the run to slow you down.

Mokelumne River, South Fork.

Mokelumne River, South Fork, D-6. For our purposes, we break this fork into two sections. One runs from Tower Park to its juncture with the North Fork in a west-east direction and is quite wide for safe skiing. At times, it can be windy here with a bit of a chop. The other section of the fork runs from Tower Park upstream to Wimpy’s. Although it starts out sufficiently wide on the Tower Park end, it narrows and twists during its journey and is not suitable for safe water skiing starting a few miles before Wimpy’s. Use your own good judgment.

Railroad Cut.

A straight-arrow run with two waterways separated by railroad tracks in the center. It runs between Old River and Middle River in the South Delta. Take the time to observe the traffic flow and follow the “unwritten rules” here. Dan H. has skied this waterway for years and says the rule here is to ski in both directions (two-way) on each of the two waterways. He says it is too dangerous to try to treat them as one-way on each side, because of heavy traffic at the bridges on each end. Dan H. says that the regulars there have devised a method of making their boats do an un-powered U-turn at the ends of the waterways without losing their skier or wakeboarder.

Sacramento River.

The mighty Sacramento offers numerous fine water skiing areas in its long run. But from its lower juncture with Steamboat Slough downstream, it can be a bit broad, windy, and rough for comfortable skiing (windsurfers love it though). The Sacramento’s levees are high for good wind protection. There are some slow zones for marinas, and some private docks may require a slow-down. In most private dock situations, the river is wide enough so that you can go to the opposite side of the river and be more than 200 feet off the docks.

Snodgrass Slough.

(See listing under “Anchoring Out” also.) Located behind Locke adjacent to The Meadows. Waterway runs for several miles before deadending. It’s a wide waterway ideal for water-skiing, and thus there is some wake action for those anchored. Waterskiers will stay here for a week on their “mother boat” handy to water skiing. Tall boats need to arrange for an opening of the Twin Cities Bridge.

Steamboat Slough.

This is a long, fairly wide slough with gentle bends, and high levees for wind protection. Boats anchor in the first two or three upstream miles, and there are few docks or slow zones to break your ski run (use caution at cable-ferry crossing). Snug Harbor is the only fuel stop on the slough.

Victoria Canal & North Canal.

Victoria Canal & North Canal, G-6. These two dug waterways seem like one with a berm down the middle, offering a straight ski run and banks high enough to provide wind protection. Take the time to observe the traffic flow and follow the “unwritten one-way rules” here.

Whiskey Slough.

This is a dead-end slough that ends at Whiskey Slough Harbor, and thus does not have the heavy traffic a through waterway might have. Although this slough has long been a good water-skier hangout (good black bass fishing as well), I have thought that with the heavier boating traffic of today, this might be a bit too dangerous for weekend skiing. But skier Dan H. touts it highly. “The dead-end area has a big turn-around area so you can keep going with a big sweeping turn,” says Dan. He says there is an unwritten rule among the regulars there that the slough is sometimes divided into two areas — with the wakeboards and kneeboarders in the more curving dead-end part of the slough and the water-skiers in the straighter area on the Empire Cut end. In any case, use caution, stay alert and be safe.

White Slough.

This is a lightly-trafficked pretty waterway peppered with tule berms. It runs from Little Potato Slough to Bishop Cut for a nice long, unimpeded run. Parts of the slough also offer nice anchorages. Victoria Canal & North Canal, G-6. These two dug waterways seem like one with a berm down the middle, offering a straight ski run and banks high enough to provide wind protection. Take the time to observe the traffic flow and follow the “unwritten one-way rules” here.


There is a section of the California Delta that aficionados of the sport of windsurfing (aka boardsailing) claim is one of the dozen best windsurfing places in the world. It is based out of the Rio Vista area (“boardheads” refer to Rio Vista as Rio) and extends downstream on the Sacramento River to the tip of lower Sherman Island, where there is a county park with boat launching. Before the boardheads discovered this area some 15 or 20 years ago, it was primarily the province of the angler, who was content enough to deal with the rough water brought about by the stiff breezes blowing in off the Montezuma Hills, as long as he or she was able to boat a few stripers, or even a sturgeon when the old diamondbacks were in the mood to take the hook

It is not recorded just who was the first windsurfer to discover that when the wind is right, which is often enough, it is possible to climb upon your board way down there on the lower edge of Sherman Island and have a brisk ride of at least six miles until you reach the lift bridge at Rio Vista.

Most of the windsurfer launching areas are informal enough, just places where the access beaches are comfortable enough not to bloody the feet, places where local farmers allow some off-road parking and space for placement of some portable toilets. Naturally, these places have been given names, varying from The Jungle, Glass Beach, and The Power Crossing, to Refrigerator Beach, to name a few. Many of these spots are found on Sherman Island Levee Road West, just another part of the vast California Delta waterway system.

The windsurfers also worked with the State Parks people, and contributed physical labor to help build Windy Cove Park, directly across Hwy 160 from Brannan Island State Park, both on the east side of the Sacramento River. Downstream of Rio Vista on the river’s west side is the county’s Sandy Beach Park, also used by windsurfers. There are several businesses in the area catering to the needs of the windsurfers. And, of course, they always are welcome at resorts such as Outrigger Marina on Threemile Slough, where they can enjoy food and grog, and maybe a few hours of relaxing in the evening after a long day on the board.


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