What ‘SUP on Lake Tahoe

SUP paddle boards Lake TahoeThe paddle boards were lined up on the shore, picturesque and bright white in the morning sunlight. My toes curled in the cool sand, which had yet to heat, though I was told that it was never exceptionally warm on the banks of Lake Tahoe. Because it was already September, the season’s hottest temperatures were long past.

Long and imposing, the stand-up paddle boards might have looked like surfboards or even snowboards, but I had no way of knowing. With fins sticking out of the back, they might even have resembled sharks, but the life jackets set on each board were a worthy reassurance that I would stay on top and not beneath when I finally worked up the guts to push mine away from the shore. I snapped on a red jacket and tightened the straps around my chest.

I dipped a toe into the water.

Cold.

Very cold.

Stand up paddle boarding (or SUP) has become an increasingly popular sport, our instructor explained before launching into the basics. Stand with two feet in the middle of the board. Got it. Stroke through the water evenly. Yep. Use the core muscles to help stand and steer. Okay.

A difficult task? Possibly, but I opted to leave my shorts and tank top on, confident in my ability to stand upright on the paddle board as I headed out toward the middle of the lake. I stepped into the water; the light waves licked at my ankles. The board was awkward, unwieldy, a bit larger than I thought I might be able to handle, almost like a kayak without a place to sit. Placing my knees parallel in the middle of the board, I pushed my heels down and stood upright, the paddle in my hand.

For a moment, my body wavered as the waves played with the new weight on the board. I held fast, focusing my attention just beyond the end of the paddle board. I tightened my abs, held my shoulders back and pushed the paddle through the water with confident ease.

First a few inches separated me from the shore, and then a few feet, and then I was free floating. Just me, my paddle and my paddle board.

Stand up paddle boarding Lake TahoeThe shore from which I’d pushed off was tucked into a small cove, protected by a few large rocks from the heart of Lake Tahoe. Inside the cove, the waves were more like ripples, adding an artistic shimmer to my view. I believed I could stand on the board, and so I did, but the farther out I paddled, the more aware I became of how far I was from the shore … and how far I would have to swim, float or paddle in wet clothes to get back if I doubted my abilities to stand even momentarily.

I paddled on. The rocks came closer, and then I began maneuvering my way around them into the wide open mouth of the lake. The ripples became waves, and occasionally one crested over the edge of my paddle board. My toes tickled with the cold but I kept my body tight, pushing through the waves. Around me, the mountainous landscape dotted with trees rose up from the lake, itself a brilliant blue color against the white board.

The paddle board moved with the waves. I shifted my feet slightly to compensate for the movement, but continued to plunge my paddle in, pulling myself through the water. I tightened my stance and turned through the waves, heading back toward the rocks and the gentle cove with its gentle ripples washing up on the shore. Once I passed the rocks, I dug in, seeing how fast I could go, how adroitly I could turn, how smoothly I could paddle.

And then I began my journey back to shore, just me, my paddle and my paddle board. My ankles were damp from my step off the board into the water and onto the sand, but other than that, I had survived my first SUP experience without a spill into the lake.

Stepping onto the shore, I snapped the life jacket off and was surprised to discover I’d worked up a small sweat. My shoulders felt awkwardly warm in the sun yet chilly from the breeze coming off of Lake Tahoe. I pulled the glistening board out of the water and dragged it ashore, dropping my life jacket on top. Once again, the board lay in the sand, lined up with the others, waiting for someone else to push it out into the deep blue waters of Lake Tahoe.

If you go: Tahoe City Kayak offers kayak and stand up paddle board tours, rentals and lessons. Details can be found at the company website.

My SUP experience on Lake Tahoe was provided by the Nevada Commission on Tourism but all opinions are my own. Second photo taken by Judy Bayliff.

18 Responses to “What ‘SUP on Lake Tahoe”

  1. John

    I’m impressed you didn’t fall in! It seems like it would be REALLY hard to balance on once of those. Are these the same kinds of boards you see people riding waves on in the ocean?

    Reply
    • JoAnna

      Balancing isn’t easy, but I was bound and determined NOT to fall in!

      Reply
  2. dtravelsround

    Very good job!!! My balance is so bad, I don’t think I could do this. I had the chance in Spain and instead opted to kayak, which did not turn out well either 🙂 Perhaps I need to stay off of the water.

    Reply
    • JoAnna

      I love kayaking too. In fact, there’s something to be said for kayaking simply because you can relax every once in awhile. With SUP, you have to remain diligent all the time!

      Reply
  3. Sophie

    What fun! Another addition to our Lake Tahoe itinerary this summer 🙂

    Reply
    • JoAnna

      Do it! It’s a lot of fun!

      Reply
  4. Abby

    I’m impressed! (And glad you didn’t fall in.) I always see photos of people doing it and wonder how hard it is.

    Reply
    • JoAnna

      It’s not easy, Abby, but I think the key is that you have to have confidence in yourself. If you convince yourself that you won’t fall, then maybe you won’t, but if you go in sure that you’ll fail, you’ll fail every time.

      Reply
  5. Brooke vs. the World

    I love the look of stand up paddle boarding! I’m so jealous when I see them out at the beach… will have to add to my list 🙂 Congrats on not falling over! 😉

    Reply
    • JoAnna

      Thanks Brooke! I imagine SUP is quite popular in Australia. I think you’d enjoy it.

      Reply
  6. Jesse

    Paddle boarding is really popular here on the fresh coast of Lake Michigan, as is kite boarding. Perks of living in the freshwater surf capital. 😉

    Reply
    • JoAnna

      Oooohhhh … kite boarding! Now that sounds like fun!

      Reply
  7. Abi

    The first time I did this with Nellie it was a total disaster (with a crowd taking pictures on the shore…) Luckily, we had another go on calmer (although glacial) water and just about managed it (although I suspect we could have done with a little more finesse…)

    Reply
  8. Candice

    I totally wanna try this, even though I’m sure I’d fail miserably. But what an ab workout!

    Reply
    • JoAnna

      It was fun ~ definitely required the full use of my body!

      Reply
    • JoAnna

      It’s becoming more popular. A good friend of mine owns a kayak/SUP company on Roatan. I wonder if you’ve seen her on the water??

      Reply

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *