I live just outside the most identity-challenged metropolitan conglomerate in the universe. Hampton, Newport News, Norfolk, Virginia Beach, Portsmouth, Chesapeake, and Suffolk, Virginia form a ridiculous mess called "The Seven Cities", also known as "The 757", aka "Tidewater", aka "Hampton Roads". Sigh... I'm just going to call it Tidewater, because that's what the Windsurfing Enthusiasts of Tidewater (WET) do.
WET's guru Glenn Woodell has made an amazing, online guide to Tidewater's windsurfing spots. It doesn't cover far enough North to include the York River, though, which is what I'm trying to remedy with this blog post. Below is a picture of the York River with the good launch sites highlighted. Below THAT is a description of each site and when it's good to sail there.
Sites 1-3: Yorktown Beach, Gloucester Point Beach, and VIMS Beach are all located around a narrow constriction of the river where the Coleman Bridge goes across. The tidal currents are amplified there, so it's safest to sail it when the wind and current are running in opposite directions. Tide tables for Gloucester Point are available here and realtime wind and tide charts are here. An incoming tide runs from East to West.
Site 1: Historic Yorktown, Virginia, where British General Cornwalis surrendered at the end of the American Revolution, now has a nice park, shopping area, and swimming beach. It's good for windsurfing when the wind is from the E or NE, and the tide is going out. To get direction to the launch, put "Water St and Read St Yorktown, VA 23690" into Google Maps. There's a parking lot next to the beach at the intersection of those streets. In summertime, you will have to duck a swim rope, or walk east towards the fishing pier to find an unroped spot to launch from.
Site 2: There's also a park on the opposite side of the River at Gloucester Point that you can launch from. It works best in E winds, but its ok in anything from NE through SW as long as the tide is right. There aren't any nice stores or historic things at the launch, but in the summer there is a snack bar open, and you can fish any time from the fishing pier without a license because Walmart buys the license for the whole pier. By the way- don't sail too close to the pier because you might get snagged in someone's fishing lines and have an awkward / expensive / painful confrontation. To find the spot, put "1208 Greate Rd, Gloucester Point, VA 23062" into Google maps. You will have to drive a little further down Greate Road to get to the beach.
Site 3: VIMS Beach is just underneath the bridge from Gloucester Point Beach, but you need to know somebody from VIMS to get in the gate. The launch there is really nice in a NW wind and incoming tide, but also works in anything from S to NW. I do lessons there because it's shallow and current-free for a long ways out, as long as you don't go South into the river channel.
Site 4: Carmine Island is a pseudo-public water access site a couple miles upriver of the bridge on the Gloucester side. It works great in W and NW winds, and ok in S and SW winds. Tide direction isn't much of a factor at Carmine because the river is wider and the current is slower there. The water is very shallow for about 100 meters out, so it's great for beginners. For directions, put "Carmines Island Rd, Hayes, VA 23072" into Google Maps, and go all the way to end of the gravel part of Carmine Island Road, where the cul-de-sac and parking is. Watch out for dog turds when you're rigging.
Site 5: If the wind is from the SW, S, or SE then it's probably best to launch from York River Seafood, another pseudo-public water access site. To get there, put "Cooks Landing and York River Seafood Ln, Hayes, VA 23072" into Google Maps. Following the signs for "Crowne Point Marina" will get you most of the way there. Then you go all the way to the end of Cooks Landing Road, park, and step over the "no trespassing" signs into the big grassy rigging area. If it's a good day there will probably be experienced kiters there. Be friendly and careful.
Site 6: To get the most juice possible out of a summertime thermal breeze, you have to go to the main stem of the Chesapeake Bay where the SE wind comes in unobstructed all the way from the ocean. Bay Tree Beach is closest main stem spot to Gloucester Point. BTB is also the windiest and best spot in a N or NE breeze. A major caveat, though, is that there is NO public access. You have to either trespass sneakily, or make fast friends with one of the waterfront homeowners. Another major caveat is that the mosquitoes are atrocious if the wind is lighter than 15 knots or you're standing in the lee of a large object. To get to directions you need to invoke the number of the beast; enter "666 Bay Tree Beach Rd, Seaford, VA 23696" into Google Maps. You may lose your soul, but it's worth it for this sweet launch.