Over the past few summers, a new craze has hit the waters of Lake Tahoe: paddleboarding. This sport entails standing up on a special board, about 12 to 18 feet long, while pushing yourself across the surface of the water with a long paddle. I recently spoke to Ernie Brassard, the sales manager at Tahoe Stand Up Paddleboards in Reno. Brassard has been in the surfing industry for over 30 years, making his start in Southern California.
He told me that the history of the paddleboard originated with a Hawaiian named Rick Thomas in San Diego who, after years of surfing, had a friend design and build a board for him to stand up on. He never really took it seriously and only did it when the ocean waves were not big enough to traditionally surf. Thomas had been doing what he called stand up paddle surfing for 16 years before it really began to catch on.
Brassard stumbled onto paddleboarding after a bike accident and needed a sport that would help him recover. His friend, the owner of Tahoe Paddle and Oar, told Brassard that paddleboarding would be good for his shoulder. Brassard found out that it is not only good for upper body strength, but for the core and legs as well as for cross training. Also, there is another added benefit: standing up on the board allows you to see down into the water.
“Lake Tahoe is so clear,” said Brassard. “And with kayaking and canoeing you can’t see down into the water, but with paddleboarding you can.”
Brassard fell in love with the sport and started the first ever flat water race on Lake Tahoe, the Ta-Hoe Nalu, with the Lake Tahoe Paddleboard Association. The race is over 7 miles across the lake and the first race had 35 racers, the second race in 2008 had over 100 and last year’s race had over 230 racers with over 1,300 spectators. This year over 12 paddle board manufacturers will be on site and the race is expecting about 3000 people to be spectating.
Brassard also said that paddleboarding is also the fastest growing sport in the state and paddleboards are selling better than kayaks.
“It’s really taken off,” he said.
So what’s paddleboarding like?
Brassard said that the beauty of the sport is that it looks harder than it is. The learning curve is only minutes rather than hours or days. In fact, Brassard said that it can be done by anyone at any age. During the previous Ta-hoe Nalu race the youngest competitor was 11 years old and the oldest was 74 years old, coming in to the finish line far from last.
“In five minutes, you are almost an expert,” he said.
He also said that it’s a novelty to see someone standing on the water. It attracts attention. It’s also both physically and visually gratifying to do the sport.
“And, it’s so much fun,” he said.
Brassard is hoping that paddleboarding will be become popular enough to be accepted as an Olympic sport.
If you want to try paddleboarding at one of the clearest lakes in the country, there are several rental places around Tahoe including Tahoe Paddle and Oar, Enviro Rents, Tahoe City Kayak, Cyclepaths in Truckee, West Shore Sports and Camp Richardson on the South Shore. One of the best places to go paddleboarding is King’s Beach on the North Shore. You can even paddleboard in this area on clear, calm winter days.
Purchasing a paddleboard will run about $1,000. The paddles are called stand up paddles and are longer handled outrigger paddles.
Photo courtesy of [RickC]