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Windsurfing and Kiteboarding at Lake Lanier
Windsurfing on Lake Lanier: General Information
Lake Lanier is Atlanta's closest big body of water and the epicenter for most local windsurfers. It's about an hour north of Atlanta. I-985 runs along the east side and GA-400 along the west. GA-20 runs along the bottom from Buford to Cumming and connects 985 and 400. GA 369 runs across the middle aat Brown's Bridge, connecting Gainesville and Cumming and separates the lake into a lower part where most sailing occurs and an upper part, much narrower. (For the curious, the Olympic rowing events were held on the upper/northern part, north of Gainesville where the lake is much narrower.) When it blows hard, local windsurfers head this way. When fronts come through, the 4 mile fetch in front of Van Pugh can offer decent 2-3 foot ramps which tend to be better on starboard. During the "season" (October through May) winds can be from 7.5 to 4.5 as fronts allow with a few 3.5 days thrown in. The big days are usually accompanied by cold air so neoprene is a necessity. The lake temperature can vary from 45ish in deep winter to bathwater in the summer. Nonetheless, some locals will sail year round as long as the air temperature is above freezing. Check out our weather pages for phone numbers for local conditions.
Lanier is much calmer in the summer (in terms of temperature and wind but not necessarily boat truaffic) and is readily accessable to novice windsurfers. However, due to its proximity to Atlanta, the southern part of the lake can get very crowded from May to August and the more northern sites should be considered. After Labor Day, best part of the year begins as the water stays warm even into November and traffic drops off dramatically as football season starts. The 45-55 degree blasts of cooler air are tempered by a dip into 65 degree water. Even in the middle of the week, parking is crowded at Van Pugh when a front rolls through. By New Year's however, the lake will have lost much of its warmth and the real cold weather sailing begins.
Where to Windsurf
There are a lot of possible places to windsurf on Lake Lanier but if conditions tend to be best at these parks: Van Pugh Park NW, W, SW, NE, Vann's Tavern Park NE, E, SE and Tidwell Park NE,E. Locals usually post on our forums when and where they are going so make sure to check in if you like company or are unsure where you should go. Other parks are good under special conditions, when the lake is crowded or if they are especially close to where you are.
- Lake Lanier Map
- See below for maps of individual locations
Windsurfing Sites on Lake Lanier
- About Lake Lanier
- Keith's Bridge Park
- Lake Lanier Map
- Lake Lanier Long Distance Sail
- Lake Lanier Sailing Club Members only unless special event
- Little Ridge Park
- Mountain View Park
- Old Federal Park
- Sunrise Cove
- Tidwell Park
- Two Mile Creek Park
- Van Pugh
- Van Pugh South
- Vann's Tavern
- West Bank
Kitesurfing on Lake Lanier
Generally, kitesurfing can be challenging on Lake Lanier. N. Georgia wind can be unsteady, there is a fair amount of boat traffic in the warm months and tall trees at most launches can make getting off the beach difficult. That's not to say we don't kite here. We do, but the conditions favor those with a bit of experience. One big thing that helps kiters are lower water levels which expose beaches and reefs that make launching much easier.
The two prime kiting locations are Old Federal Park on NW, W and SW winds and Vann's Tavern Park on NE, E and SE. They improve as water levels go down (typically summer and fall). Van Pugh Park can also be good if the water is pretty far down (say, 1065'. Full summer pool is 1071').
Clarks Hill Reservoir which is east of Atlanta near Augusta is said to have some good launches for kites, too.
Lanier is at the foot of the mountains and therefore the underwater contours are as steep as the surrounding land. This means at many "beaches", the drop off can be quick. Children and weak swimmers should be aware. Marked swimming areas tend to drop off more slowly but be forewarned. Likewise, rocks and semi-suberged islands can stick up as quickly. Respect reef markers, especially when the lake is below full pond.
A surprising number of people drown each year, many at the spots you might sail from. If you, or your family and friends accompanying you, aren't strong swimmers, be advised and take the appropriate cautions.
We omit many parks on Lanier, because they are less than optimal for windsurfing. Usually, there is a better alternative close by. Requirements for a good launch generally are open, facing the wind and on a open body of water. Trees and hills wreak havoc on the wind flow for a fair distance downwind from 6 to 10 times their height and more.
Lake levels fluctuate. What is an open body of water at full pool may have a shoal or reef in it when the lake is down 10 feet. When the lake is down even more, all sorts of things lay just below the surface including rocks, stumps, and hill tops. Consult locals, respect reef markers and mind the water when it changes color.
- Lake Sidney Lanier, Army Corps of Engineers
- Map of Lake Lanier and Its Parks
- Map of Lake Lanier including underwater contours and special water features (A fairly large .pdf file)
- Lake Lanier Water Level
- Lake Lanier History