VIDEO: What’s SUP on Lake Tahoe like for a first-time paddler? | SierraSun.com
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VIDEO: What’s SUP on Lake Tahoe like for a first-time paddler?

Adrift Tahoe — a paddleboard, kayak and canoe rental shop located in Kings Beach — is open seven days a week during the summer from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Courtesy Peter Spain |

SUP safety

Since the U.S. Coast Guard ruled in 2012 that SUPs are “vessels” by definition and subject to federal boating laws, all paddlers 13 years of age or older are required to either be wearing a USCG-approved life jacket or have it strapped somewhere on their board.

Meanwhile, all children 12 years old or younger must be wearing their USCG-approved life jacket.

“You can get a ticket from the sheriff if you don’t have one,” Krueger said. “So we highly recommend bringing one of those with you even if you’re not renting from us.

“We do include a life jacket with every rental we send out,” he added.

Additionally, Krueger said, Adrift Tahoe recommends all paddlers wear an ankle leash that keeps paddlers tethered to their board. This is especially important for those who choose to have their life preserver strapped onto the board, rather than wearing it while paddling the lake.

More online: Visit standuppaddletahoe.com to learn more about Adrift Tahoe in Kings Beach.

KINGS BEACH, Calif. — “It’s basically advanced standing,” Stephen Krueger, co-manager of Adrift Tahoe, says.

I want to believe him — but I’m wary.

You see, I’ve never been stand-up paddleboarding (SUP) before, so going into my first crack at “advanced standing” atop Lake Tahoe Wednesday morning, I envisioned myself spilling off the paddleboard and plunging into the cool Tahoe waters over and over and over — like a blooper reel set to “Yakety Sax.”

In short, I was mentally prepared to fall and fall often.

On Wednesday morning, as I headed over to Adrift Tahoe — a paddleboard, kayak and canoe rental shop located in Kings Beach — I even wondered to myself, “do I need a wetsuit?”

“You definitely don’t need one, you’re out of the water most of the time,” Krueger says. “A lot of people have some weird misconceptions about paddleboarding and how difficult it can be, but it’s really not too bad.”

Again, I want to believe him.

As I lug my paddleboard to the Tahoe shoreline and prepare to trudge into the water, I see a young boy, maybe 8 years old, up on a board, effortlessly (and coolly) standing and paddling along like it’s … well, child’s play.

I can’t decide if this is giving me (potentially false) if-a-kid-can-do-it-I-can-do-it confidence, or if it’s psyching me out — kind of like seeing a classmate hand in a test before you’ve even finished writing your name — and will (literally) shake my poise.

Clearly, as I often do when trying something new, I’m overthinking all of this.

I guide my board across the lake’s surface and then pitch myself onto the vessel, kneeling on the fiberglass surface to start, and begin paddling.

Now comes the hard part — unfolding into a stance, sliding the paddle into the water, and staying upright.

Thanks to the on-land lesson from Austin Young, the other co-manager of Adrift Tahoe, I execute the best “fall free” method for getting into SUP position.

“That’s when most first-timers fall,” I recall Young saying to me.

So, yes, I’m standing up and still dry, but the initial unfamiliar feeling of balancing on a piece of fiberglass that’s drifting atop a body of water is not an instant adjustment. There’s some shakiness going on, in other words.

But, less five minutes later, the shakiness steadies. I loosen up — my stance, my grip on the paddle, my hesitant attitude, everything — and start absorbing the feel of the water underneath me, and, most of all, begin soaking in the serene experience.

I mean, I’ve seen Tahoe’s impossibly clear water from land, but having the diamond-flecked swirl of blues beneath your feet is something else entirely. As I drift into an area of the lake draped in turquoise, I can’t stop looking down, and can’t help but mutter to myself, “This is too cool.”

Which is why, on any given day at Lake Tahoe, you’re bound to see a bevy of people of all ages and abilities gliding across the water, peacefully partaking in stand up paddleboarding — or “advanced standing.”

“It’s just a really fun way to get out on the water,” Krueger says when I’m back on shore. “There’s no motor, there’s no noise, you’re just out there by yourself — you can access parts of the lake that you otherwise couldn’t get to by boat or other transportation.”

Kaleb M. Roedel is a reporter for the Sierra Sun and North Lake Tahoe Bonanza. Connect with him on Instagram @kaleb_ray or on Twitter @kaleb_roedel.


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