Bay to Breakers: When San Francisco Parties on the Streets!

Bay to Breakers is a footrace which takes place on the third Sunday of May each year in the city of San Francisco, California. The tradition has been going on for over a century and each year anywhere between 50,000 to 70,000 people participate in it. On this day at the break of dawn, participants start from one end of the city and run to the other side over a stretch of about 12km, passing through some of the most beautiful neighborhood of the city.

The day of Bay to Breakers is also a day when the streets of San Francisco come alive with bizarre fashion and style and all boundaries are broken (quite literally). There is much festivity in the air and even a curious onlooker is tempted to jump in and take part in race.

The next Bay to Breakers in San Francisco will take place on 15th May 2016.

rabbits Bay to Breakers San Francisco
I loved this bunch of two guys and a girl at Bay to Breakers

But how did the tradition of this footrace actually start?

To understand this, we need to go back in time to the beginning of the last century.

It was early morning and most of the residents of the city of San Francisco were asleep when an earthquake of the magnitude of 7.8 hit the city. Over the next few days fires ravaged the city and almost 80% of San Francisco was destroyed. The earthquake is also often called one of the worst natural disaster in the history of United States. Over 25,000 buildings were destroyed in the fires and over 3,000 people lost their lives.

As the city burnt and people lost their homes and source of livelihood, the spirits were down and future looked bleak to many. Even as plans for city's reconstruction were made, many efforts were also made to improve the morale of it's people. And this is how the now legendary footrace, Bay to Breakers, was started.

It had humble beginning with only a handful of participants for the first race. However, with time participation grew and so did it's reputation. During the war years, sometimes only 50 people participated, yet the footrace lived on.

Elvis Presley Bay to Breakers San Francisco
A bunch of Elvis Presley!

My experiences at Bay to Breaker in SF

From the time I had come to the Bay area, I had heard about this one event and was quite curious to attend it, mainly because of the stories of eccentricities associated with it. The event takes place every third Sunday of May and stretches for 12km from near The Embarcadero (adjacent to San Francisco Bay) and finishes at the Great Highway. The racers (or breakers as they are more commonly known) crash into the Ocean Beach at the end of the race.

I used to live in Palo Alto at the time and had planned to travel to San Francisco by train, but at the last minute my friend Abhinav also agreed to come and we drove to the city in his car. You can always participate in the event by registering, however, most people do not participate officially and just join in the crowd. Thankfully, this is not at all unusual (about 60% people don't register ) and so we were not the odd ones out. Had I known in advance, I would have actually participated with a bib number!

pretty girls Bay to Breakers San Francisco
Pretty girls! :)
girls women Bay to Breakers San Francisco
And some girls more with attitude!

We parked our car and walked towards the road where the race had already started. There was quite a lot of rush and the moment we joined the crowd, we were immediately made a part of it. There were bodies all around, and the experience was not too different from India's Kumbh melas. The race is one of those days when people completely let go of all their inhibitions and the concept of personal space changes completely for this one day.

On a regular day in SF, it would be considered highly inappropriate to walk on streets with people walking very close to you, but on this day there are almost no inhibitions and everyone is happy to share their walking space with everyone else. There is a sense of festivity and the people are just happy to have many more people around them :)

Lots of Freedom of Expression!

As we walked further more shocks were awaiting us. I had heard about the nudity at the race, but I was unprepared for all the sights. Lots of naked men and some women of all shapes, sizes, ages were all around. Men greatly outnumbered the women when it came to skin show, and some of them also had their erect members on display. Many of these were eye candies for the girls and were grabbed by a bunch of screaming girls every few minutes, something none of them minded. There was a dancing Gandhi, many super heroes without lower clothing, women in leather garments which were strategically cut for maximum exposure and many more such interesting participants.

I was initially quite apprehensive about taking their pictures, but most wanted to be clicked and happily posed. Within a short while my embarrassment was over and I actively became a part of the crowd wholeheartedly. Everyone was as interested in enjoying the party as they were in getting clicked!

naked American men male exposed Bay to Breakers San Francisco erect penis cock
Well built naked men are seen throughput the race
naked American man male Bay to Breakers San Francisco erect penis cock
Here is another naked man enjoying the sun
men Bay to Breakers San Francisco
The streets are littered (btw can you locate me in the picture?)

The environment throughout the race was that of a day long party. The houses we crossed played loud music and offered free food and water to the participants. We were invited to join them in their gardens and dance on the music they played. There was everything to choose from - Bhangda, hip-hop, retro, ACDC, heavy metal and so on. It was also one day when no one cares about littering the streets and half the street was full of empty water bodies, food packets and much more.

The race ends right on the beach and it's only a few who actually run to the end, most just laugh and kiss and loiter across the finishing line. The race, however, ends by a dip in the cold water of the Ocean Beach for many participants. And that's where we also sat at the end of the day. The race is on the famous hilly roads of San Francisco and it actually gets quite hot by the time you reach the beach, however taking a dip in water is still a challenge as the water is quite cold even in May. Some youngsters prefer to make out rather than freeze themselves in the water.

finishing line Bay to Breakers San Francisco
At the finishing line! Yay!
finishing line Bay to Breakers San Francisco
The bunch of brides were super fun!
making out beach Bay to Breakers San Francisco
And finally relaxing/ making out on the beach

If you are in San Francisco or the Bay Area in May, this is an event not to be missed. It’s probably bizarre for a visitor from outside the country, but its extremely important to experience the event to get a sense of the city. Go for it!

And finally let me leave you with more images from the day! I have blocked the privates so as not to offend anyone, but if it does please let me know and I will see if I can remove it :)

beautiful pretty girls Bay to Breakers San Francisco
Pretty girls posing for the camera
naked nude men males Bay to Breakers San Francisco erect penis cock
More naked men far outnumbering the women folk!
pretty colorful girls Bay to Breakers San Francisco
These girls are having way too much fun
American men in underwear Bay to Breakers San Francisco
And this is the underwear gang :)
drag men males Bay to Breakers San Francisco
Some men who cross dressed with much attitude!
super heroes Bay to Breakers San Francisco
Some smart super heroes!
American man red underwear dancing Bay to Breakers San Francisco
A man in tight red underwear shaking his booty!
having colourful fun Bay to Breakers San Francisco
And finally a fun bunch!

Musical festivals in California

If running naked (pun intended) isn't your favourite thing to do on a weekend, here' something else you can do in California - attend musical festivals! Read this guide to learn more: The 8 best camping musical festival of California.

Here's another carnival which you must attend in San Francisco: Latin American Annual Carnival


  1. It could be culture shock right? A guy who was obviously sloshed peed in front of me at the Bay to Breakers :) . It took extreme self control on my part not to photograph him at that moment. It's definitely a must see, if not participating I can tell you that.

    worth a thousand words

    1. Haha...that's true! Its certainly worth a visit - if I am in the Bay Area next time when the race happens, I will certainly participate as well :)

  2. Was there for the Gay Pride Parade a few months ago, but this is something totally different. Colourful no doubt but like Photo Cache said, it will be a cultural shock for many.

    1. I guess so too. It would be interesting to attend a Gay Pride Parade in SF, the city has such vibrant culture...

  3. I saw each picture very carefully in your post. They are people like us still whatever they expressing and taking pride in that is so unique. I just cannot imagine how easily they are doing whatever they doing, dancing, wearing, walking, hugging. I am trying to assess their Freedom of expression. This is a different world Sid :)

    1. You said it really well Shilpa. It's a very very different and free world - everyone is free to express themselves as they are. Of course, not everyone thinks this way there as well...

  4. Ha Ha your post reminds me of Geneve festival! Similar yet different. Naked people dancing on the road or on trucks. It's an international festival & people come from faraway places to see it. :)

    I have a few pics but not from a digicam. :)

    1. I find these festivals super fun! Next time I see one, I am gonna jump right in and be a participant and not an onlooker :)

  5. I am one of the naked men you pictured in your post, the one wearing a Busch hat, with my GF wearing a black robe. I just wanted to say, you did a very good write-up and description of the race. I participated for the first time in 2010, as a “bucket-list” item to do just once, but it is so much fun, and so addicting that I have done it, nude, every year since, including this year. The weather this year was very warm and there were many more naked women, but as you said the men still outnumber them. One of the fun parts of participating nude, is that many in the crowd, especially the women, really love seeing us, and have great fun posing for pictures with the nude men. At times it must be how famous celebrities feel, with so many people wanting to take your picture, give you high-fives, compliments, etc. It also seems to be tradition to slap the nude men on the butt as you run past. On some years it was quite red by the end of the race. Going naked in front of so many people is also a very liberating experience.

    1. That's pretty amazing Berry! I never thought anyone featured would actually read the article and see his/ her image :)

      I can totally imagine walking naked could be liberating. In fact if I happen to visit SF during the race another time, I will join in and get butt naked too, just for the heck of it! Plus what's the big deal :) :)


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