Tahoe area growing into sports mecca

Lynne Hickman
Special to the Sun

Stand-up paddleboarding is becoming increasingly popular at Lake Tahoe, evidenced by the number of races held across the area, as well as recreatioinal paddlers.
File photo |

Tahoe will forever be a ski community, but with new sports gaining popularity in the area, skiing may not be the only activity the iconic lake is famous for in the near future.

Sports such as lacrosse, paddleboarding, CrossFit and kiteboarding have recently exploded onto the scene and are quickly gaining steam.

Lacrosse continues to grow as an offseason sport for Tahoe and Truckee youths, as it provides a way for young athletes to stay active while building team-oriented skills.

Just last spring, a high school team for North Tahoe and Truckee girls was established through the Tahoe City Public Utility District and continues to practice in the summer months. The North Tahoe High School boys lacrosse team recently earned the championship title in its league, and the U-15 boys lacrosse champions were out of Truckee.

“Lacrosse is a great fit for our area. We are fortunate to have an abundance of very good athletes,” said Brett McCann, head coach of the North Tahoe boys lacrosse team, adding that the program is set to expand next year at the high school level, offering both junior varsity and varsity programs.

McCann attributes the success of the program to the help it has received from coaches and the program director, as well as the kids and parents who take part in the program.

Along with lacrosse, paddleboarding is quickly spreading throughout the community.

With Friday night races hosted weekly between Adrift Tahoe out of Kings Beach and Waterman’s Landing in Carnelian Bay — as well as the Start Haus’ new Friday night races at Donner Lake’s West End Beach — many local athletes are trying their hand at the popular paddle sport.

As mentioned by professional paddler Jay Wild, owner of Waterman’s Landing and founder of the Lake Tahoe Junior Waterman Camp, Tahoe is home to the longest-running paddleboard race in the world, the Ta-Hoe Nalu, which returns to Kings Beach this Friday through Sunday.

In addition to those who compete in these races, paddleboarding has sparked interest among recreational paddlers as well.

“It allows people to live an active life year-round,” said Wild, adding that summer sports such as mountain biking and hiking don’t appeal to everybody.

Calling Tahoe a flat-water mecca, Wild relates the pristine natural beauty of the lake to its sudden popularity. He also said that although paddling can be a year-round activity, proper safety precautions should be taken. These include personal floatation devices as well as proper attire for winter paddles.

When the weather doesn’t permit a paddle, community members also venture to their favorite CrossFit gyms.

CrossFit encourages strength and conditioning through functional movement, using a combination of Olympic weightlifting, gymnastics, cardio and other movements that, by design, are broad, general and include variety.

Gyms such as CrossFit Avalanche and CrossFit Blizzard provide these highly intense workouts. Some local CrossFit athletes have even become competitive in the discipline, such as 2009 North Tahoe grad and former volleyball standout Kayla Baumgardner.

“It should not come as a surprise to see so many people starting to get involved in the CrossFit community, especially here in the Tahoe Basin,” Baumgardner said.

She explained the appeal by pointing out that body type isn’t a factor in CrossFit, and neither is age. “It is not rare to walk into a CrossFit gym and spot a 17-year-old battling it out against a 50-year-old,” she said.

Baumgardner also mentioned the thrill of competing against herself and the drive to push her physical fitness.

On windier days at the lake, visitors may notice the plethora of kites in the sky. These kites belong to the elite — and novice — kiteboarders who call Tahoe home.

Kiteboarding is an up-and-coming water sport that has a possibility of appearing in the 2016 Olympics. With many high-flying kiters in Tahoe, the community may have a chance to witness one of its own in the Summer Games.

Tahoe is already home to many amazing extreme athletes, proving that the mountain community harbors a nearly perfect environment for an array of adrenaline-filled sports. With these new sports and activities arising and gaining popularity, Tahoe is slowly straying from being known solely for its world-class skiing.

Lynne Hickman is a sophomore at North Tahoe High School and a member of the Squaw Valley Freestyle and Freeride Team.

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