Ta-Hoe Nalu celebrates a decade on the lake at Kings Beach
August 16, 2017
It began a decade ago with friends embarking on a paddleboard race from Commons Beach to Tahoe Vista with only bragging rights on the line and a tab for the night's beers at stake.
Going into the 11th annual Ta-Hoe Nalu, the festival has grown to become a weekend-long celebration at Kings Beach, attracting thousands of spectators for races, vendor displays, prizes, board demonstrations, music, and contests.
"It's just exploded," event organizer and co-founder Ernie Brassard said. "There's never been a sport that's been so social. You can go out and compete at a high-level race like this, and you go out with your kids, your family … the parents can do it, the grandparents can do it, and it's cool enough that the kids want to do it. There's nothing intimidating; it's just about being outside and enjoying paddling."
The festival kicked off on Saturday, Aug. 12, with the largest field of competitors for any of the weekend's events, as paddlers took to the line for a 5-mile race to Crystal Bay and back. The more than 170 racers included novice paddlers up to those who compete across the United States, and ranged in ages from a handful of 70-year-olds down to a toddler, who sat on the center of his mother's board while she cruised the 5-mile course.
Ryan Funk, 17, who grew up on Tahoe's shores until age 10, was the first to make it back to Kings Beach in the stand-up 14-foot division. He finished the race with a time of 54 minutes, 32.40 seconds.
"The conditions were glassy," Funk said. "You couldn't ask for anything better. We had a bunch of solid guys — Trent Carter, Garret Fetcher — so I kind of battled it out with those guys at the end."
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Fletcher was the second stand-up paddler across the finish line, and first out of the men's 18-29 division with a time of 55:07.85; while Carter would finish second out of the junior division with a time of 55:36.15.
For Funk, who said he spends three months out of the year at his home in Maui, Hawaii, and the rest of the time competing and paddling around the world, returning to Tahoe to pick up the win was something he's had in mind since he began racing.
"This was my first race ever," he said. "I think I did the 10-mile and paddled with my paddle backwards the whole way and got last. They shut off the timing thing, but it's good. I always wanted to get first in this race and I finally got it."
Funk would return the following day to compete in the 10-mile race, where he finished in second place overall with a time of 1:40:48.30.
On the women's side, 16-year-old Sofia Sanchez topped the field over the five-mile course in the 12-foot, 6-inch paddleboard division with a time of 1:04:53.00; while Vicki Mills, 50, took the win in the women's 14-foot division with a time of 1:10:45.05.
Kim Wittman, who took the win in the original Ta-Hoe Nalu, made the trip up from Los Cabos, Mexico, to compete in the festival once again.
"I used to live out here over in Stateline, and (Rick Thomas and Brassard) put this thing together, and I said, 'Sure.' Even though I had only been (paddleboarding) a year," she said. "Now, I just come up for this. My son still lives locally … it's just nice to see everyone come out, it's a family day."
Wittman said she borrowed a friend's board for Saturday's five-mile race and finished with a time of 1:28:28.60 to take first out of the women's 50-59 division.
Tom Reid would complete the course faster than anyone on the day, using a surf ski to take first in his division with a time of 52:47.95. David Wright, 66, was the top finisher out of the men's outrigger canoe, one-man division with a time of 54:40.55. Carolyn Partridge took the win out of the women's outrigger canoe division with a time of 57:41.25.
The festivities continued the following day with a trio of smaller fields of racers for a 10-mile race, a 2-mile race, and children's races. For full results visit TaHoeNalu.com.