Outrigger canoes race in rough weather
Teams from all over the United States gathered in Carnelian Bay to race their outrigger canoes on the clear blue waters of Lake Tahoe as the Lake Tahoe Outrigger Criterion took place this past Saturday and Sunday.
Saturday presented itself in perfect form with flat waters and warm weather as the Truckee Outrigger Canoe Club had its day in the sun.
In the coed novice race the Truckee club paddled its way into second place in the three-mile race.
“It was my first competition,” said Michelle Gartner of Truckee’s club. “It’s so fun when you get the whole boat working together.”
In the women’s novice the Truckee Outrigger Canoe Club took first place in the three-mile race.
Truckee club members also competed in the coed open 10 mile race.
On Sunday the Truckee club came back to race in the OC-6 (six-person outrigger canoe).
The women were set to race a 13-mile race from the Kayak Cafe to Brockway point and return. From there they would race to Dollar Point and back to conclude the 13-mile race.
But the waters of Lake Tahoe looked unusually gray reflecting the overcast sky above. As the Truckee women’s club paddled away from the kayak cafe the dark clouds continued to close in. Lightning light up the sky above as the clouds continued to grown darker.
As the wind howled off the lake, the spirit of Hawaii was present on shore with leis and flowered skirts and shorts but the weather of the Sierra was alive over Big Blue.
Lightning continued to strike and the wind grew stronger and colder by the second. At one point the wind began to blow so hard one had to wonder if the paddlers would return to an empty beach.
The waves continued to crash over the front of the canoes and many teams were forced to call it a day. Some competitors returned to shore with near hypothermic conditions.
“Take the energy of the weather and put it into your paddle,” Daphne Hougard told the Truckee club as she steered from the back.
But eventually the energy of the weather was little more than extremely cold and the Truckee group had to call it quits.
“Our No. 1 paddler couldn’t feel her hands, so she switched with our No. 5 paddler,” said team member Daphne Hougard. “But our No. 5 paddler was only up in front a little while before her feet turned white.”
As the men’s teams waited for their turn, the weather took a turn as well. By the time the men hit the water the lake shone bright blue reflecting the sunny day that emerged.
Not only did the Truckee group borrow boats to race in, but they also borrowed members to paddle. On Saturday the coed novice team found someone from another club to steer for them. On Sunday the men’s team used a paddler from another club at the event.
In the end the spirit of paddling could be seen in the shaking faces of the half frozen competitors.
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