Ta-Hoe Nalu Paddle Festival makes it a dozen years on Lake Tahoe, despite concern over wildfires | SierraSun.com

Ta-Hoe Nalu Paddle Festival makes it a dozen years on Lake Tahoe, despite concern over wildfires

In the days leading up to last weekend's Ta-Hoe Nalu Paddle Festival, the event's president and founder, Ernie Brassard, was concerned he might have to cancel the weekend-long celebration for the first time in its 12 years on the lake.

With fires raging across California and smoke sitting in the basin during the week of the festival, Brassard said there was worry from organizers about continuing with the world's longest running stand-up paddleboard race.

"This was my first year that I was really nervous that we might have to cancel it, and a lot of people weren't sure if they were going to come because of the conditions here," Brassard said. "But the gods were good to us and it cleared up on Friday when we were setting up."

As clear skies greeted the Saturday's opening ceremonies, Brassard's concern over who and how many racers and attendees might show up to celebrate the birthplace of inland stand-up paddleboarding would be alleviated as well, as elite paddlers such as Maui's Josh Riccio, local Trent Carter, and Ryan Funk, who reportedly became the first person to make the crossing from Maui, Hawaii to Molokai, Hawaii by surf foiling without a paddle, showed up to paddle Tahoe. Funk accomplished the feat last July at the Maui 2 Molokai SUP Race.

Saturday's racing attracted the largest crowds and deepest field of competitors for 5 miles of paddling from Kings Beach to Crystal Bay and back.

Riccio, 29, would take the top spot in the stand-up 14-foot division, finishing the course with a time of 51 minutes and 58 seconds. Carter, 16, who debuted as a professional this year, was second with a time of 52:35. Eric Hockridge, of Eden, Utah, was third with a time of 53:11.

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In the deepest women's field, the stand-up 12-foot, 6-inch class, Truckee paddlers Susan Norman and Julie Munger made it a one-two finish for locals. Norman reached Kings Beach with a time of 1:06:16, and Munger finished with a time of 1:07:58.

While the 5-mile race highlighted the opening day of festivities, Brassard said it's been the thousands of non-racers and first timers that show up to Kings Beach each year that have taken the festival to another level.

"Most of the people that come here don't even want to race. They're just here for the camaraderie. It's really truly a Hawaiian festival, and we don't plan on giving it up," said Brassard on running the festival during the past decade.

"Some days I say, 'I can't do it anymore,' where I'm organizing, chasing exhibitors, and sponsors, but when you come up here, the quality of the people that get into this sport, and when I walk away I've got a big smile on my face for a month after. So, I say, 'No way we can stop this.' It's kind of got a life of its own now."

Tahoe Waterman squad paddles to course record

Sunday featured the festival's 10-mile race with more than 60 athletes paddling from Kings Beach to Incline Village and back.

The six-person team from Waterman's Landing would set the course record in the outrigger canoe division, finishing the race with a time of 1:24:17.75.

Waterman's Landing CEO Anik Wild was among the members of the crew whose outrigger went head-to-head with the one-man craft powered by her husband, Jay Wild.

"He almost beat us," said Anik Wild. "He was less than two minutes behind."

Jay Wild was second fastest of any craft on the day, coming in with a time of 1:26:15.25.

In stand-up racing, Eric Hockridge, of Eden, Utah, was first with a time of 1:38:44.85, followed by actor, Ingo Rademacher, who's a regular on "The Bold and the Beautiful," with a time of 1:39:41.00. Truckee's Jeff Pearson was the top local, finishing with a time of 1:48:25.05 for 10th place in the class.

Local youngster Delila Quinn, 14, of Homewood, took first place by nearly 15 minutes in the deepest field of women racers, the stand-up 14-foot division. Quinn finished the 10-mile distance with a time of 1:45:15.60.

Local Carol Lyda was the fastest overall woman on the day, winning the surfski division with a time of 1:35:55.00.

The youngest racer in the field was Soryn Preston, 9, of Long Beach, California. She would make the trip to Incline and back to Kings Beach in 2:34:56.85.

Following the 10-mile paddle would be the 12-and-under Grom Race, which brought in a handful of youngsters, including Preston, for a short out-and-back race. Brassard said in recent years the children's race has seen a deep in numbers in the older classes due to youth teams like that at Waterman's Landing producing youngsters strong enough to paddle the longer distances.

"Jay and Anik (Wild) train theses kids," said Brassard. "The Grom Race, we don't have as many in the 12-and-under anymore, because most of the Groms don't want to paddle it. It's not a big enough race for them now. They're so good they paddle in the adult races."

For Anik Wild, the atmosphere of the festival and its competitive spirit align with the culture of paddling the team at Waterman's Landing has helped cultivate in Tahoe.

"It's what we believe in at the shop and with the team that we have, and the nonprofit," she said. "We're all about putting people out there. It's not so much about winning, it's about all coming here as a group and doing our personal best."

Justin Scacco is a reporter for the Sierra Sun. Contact him at jscacco@sierrasun.com.