Tahoe SUP wins Outside Magazine Gear of the Year award
Since the mid-2000s, stand-up paddleboarding has exploded in popularity.
Much of the sport’s rapid growth and origins can be traced directly to the Lake Tahoe area, and a few innovators, who began experimenting with different designs and shapes to create a perfect inland board.
More than a decade later, the search to make new and better boards led Tahoe SUP founder Nate Brouwer to create the Tahoma — an 11-foot by 34-inch inflatable vessel that is a “do-everything board.”
Last month Outside Magazine awarded the Tahoma with the Gear of the Year award for best stand-up paddleboard of 2019. Brouwer said his boards have garnered runner-up awards in past years, but this is the first time a Tahoe SUP paddleboard has taken the top honor.
The award-winning vessel is the first inflatable board to utilize a catamaran design. The board features three chambers — two outside pontoons and a drop stitch middle, and takes around 10 minutes to inflate.
“It creates a really stable board,” said Brouwer on the design. “But the glide ratio is still a lot better or as good as a normal inflatable.”
The Tahoma’s versatility is what truly makes it standout from other boards. The board can carry up to 450 pounds of gear, has a variety of tie-downs and mounts to accommodate accessories, such as fishing-rod holders, a cooler, and even a kayak seat. A small outboard motor can also be mounted to the back of the board.
“You can get them up to about seven miles per hour, because there’s no drag on the front with the pontoons,” said Brouwer, who displayed the board with a trolling motor at last year’s Ta-Hoe Nalu Paddle Festival.
“An inflatable board actually does really well on Tahoe. If you go out to Speedboat Beach and tie up against all those rocks, you’re not damaging your board.”
The boards, which are constructed from military grade PVC, were able to hold up to being bounced off sharp barnacles, according to Outside Magazine’s review, while being used at a harbor in central California.
The boards will be available this summer at a cost of $999 and can be purchased locally at Tahoe City Kayak.
‘Everyone thought we were nuts’
Roughly two decades ago Brouwer first arrived in the area as an 18-year-old with plans on attending the University of Nevada, Reno.
A now-hiring sign as he drove by Boreal, however, elicited a change of heart.
“I pulled over, and was like, ‘I’m going to snowboard for the winter and get a job here,’” said Brouwer.
He wound up working at the mountain for the next six years, eventually rising to a management position. But the slopes wouldn’t be where he’d find his calling. Instead, inspiration struck on a trip to Southern California where Brouwer ended up going surfing with a friend who’d brought a peculiar board out to the lineup that day.
“He brought a stand-up board, which I’d never seen,” said Brouwer. “That’s what got my mind going at the time … this would be really cool to bring up to Donner Lake and put my dog on it and cruise around.”
Brouwer soon began experimenting with shaping his own boards, taking inspiration from boats and kayaks as he labored to build something more suitable to inland bodies of water.
“I built the first touring board in 2007,” he said. “I built it right there on Donner Lake. I lived up on Olympic (Drive). I took it down to the lake and everyone thought I was totally insane.”
From there, he built boards with greater capacity, added pads to his designs in order to accommodate dogs, and included attachment points to haul more gear.
In 2008, he founded Tahoe SUP and later took his touring board to trade shows where he again raised eyebrows.
“We displayed it there at Surf Expo, which again, everyone thought we were nuts,” said Brouwer.
During the next decade Tahoe SUP continued to innovate, creating the patented ThermoSUP construction method, which makes an abrasion resistant, durable board with no waste.
As Tahoe SUP’s selection of boards has grown to include models that are designed for fishing, whitewater, touring, and expeditions, so has the popularity of the sport. And the strange looks Brouwer once received while paddling around Donner have now turned into thousands of paddlers enjoying summers at lakes, reservoirs, and rivers across the globe.
Justin Scacco is a reporter for the Sierra Sun. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Bill Rozak is live from Sierra-at-Tahoe.