Photo Credit Patty Robbins
One of the more peaceful ways to enjoy Lake Tahoe is by gliding through the cool, crystal clear water, discovering sandy beaches and secluded coves on a paddle board. Lake Tahoe offers an endless array of adventures for individuals seeking superb stand up paddle boarding (SUP) opportunities, while inviting you to enjoy the tranquility of a pristine alpine lake. You will be treated to extraordinary views as you set out to explore all the SUP opportunities this gorgeous lake has to offer.
The air at Lake Tahoe is as clear and pure as the vivid blue water. The fresh mountain air and stunning scenery attracts the adventurous spirit and welcomes you to an unparalleled stand up paddle boarding experience.
SUP began decades ago in Waikiki as a way for tour guides to keep an eye on vacationers, but it didn’t catch on until a few years ago in the United States. SUP is considered to be Lake Tahoe’s fastest growing sport, and it is also now one of the fastest growing sports in the world.
For those of you who are not familiar with standup paddle boarding, the paddler stands in an upright position in the middle of a board shaped like a large surfboard, and uses a single blade paddle with a long shaft to glide through the water, while balancing with their legs. It is easy to balance on the board and get familiar with the technique. It is an enjoyable way to strengthen your muscles and improve your balance while increasing your overall fitness, and is suited for all ages.
There are two main kinds of standup paddle boards: surfing and point-to-point. A surf SUP board uses an extra-large longboard, similar to a surfboard, but thicker and wider, with a flat rocker. The point-to-point board is sleek and narrower with a more tapered tail. It is designed for speed and distance.
Lake Tahoe standup paddle boarder, Patty Robbins, best describes standup paddle boarding (SUP) as “a combination between surfing and outrigger canoeing.” An avid alpine skier, stand-up paddler, kayaker, mountain biker, hiker, and freelance graphic designer, Patty has lived and worked in the Lake Tahoe region for over 16 years. Patty believes, “The best place to learn how to SUP is at Lake Tahoe. The warm temperatures and relatively calm waters in the morning make exploring Lake Tahoe’s 72 mile shoreline an experience that other watercraft simply can't offer. When you paddle out into the crystal blue waters, you will get to see Tahoe beneath the surface. By standing rather than sitting, you can see 50-60+ feet below the surface of the water.”
Lake Tahoe is known for its unparalleled beauty — vibrant blue skies, sparkling cold waters, and massive granite boulders. It is also prone to hazardous wind conditions. Patty recommends, “When you learn how to SUP, take an intro lesson and practice paddling when there isn’t any wind. Check the weather conditions before heading out. Lake Tahoe usually is calm and relatively flat before 10:00 a.m. Also, be prepared to get wet, because falling in is part of the enjoyment.” With an understanding of your ability, and an eye out for gusty winds (and boat wakes), a beginner paddler will have an amazing experience out on the lake.
Are there any drawbacks to stand up paddling versus kayaking? “When you’re first learning, boards can be slower than kayaks, especially if the wind picks up and you’re traveling upwind. Balancing can sometimes be challenging as well.”
When is the best time to SUP paddle on Lake Tahoe? “The best time to paddle board on Lake Tahoe is after August, when the crowds are gone and the water is still warm and smooth. After Labor Day, there should be a couple of months when you can paddle before the first snowfall.”
Where is your favorite place to SUP on Lake Tahoe? “I have a few places I like to both SUP and kayak, including NV State Park Sand Harbor and the east shore, with its sandy beaches and rocky coves, Crystal Bay, Carnelian Bay/Waterman’s Landing, and CA State Parks D.L. Bliss and Emerald Bay.”
There are abundant scenic areas to SUP paddle throughout Lake Tahoe’s 72 miles of shoreline. You can paddle along the shoreline on your own or join a tour. SUP board rentals are offered by several companies. Paddlers who own SUP boards can launch at numerous locations around the lake. If you plan your getaway during the summer season, you need to launch early. Better yet, come on a weekday, though Tuesdays and Wednesdays can also get busy.