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A Stand Up Paddleboarder’s Guide for Mountain Summer

mountain-spring-2013-stand-up-paddleboard-ryan-salmPhoto by Ryan Salm


Cool off and explore your favorite mountain destination on a different kind of watercraft this summer. Stand up paddleboarding is one of the fastest growing outdoor sports in the U.S. (more here), and Lake Tahoe and a groundswell of mountain destinations offer tours and events for everyone from first-timers to experts. 


SUP Tahoe:

Paddle 14 miles roundtrip from South Lake Tahoe to Emerald Bay, a glacially carved inlet that is one of Tahoe’s most photogenic locations. Or rent a board from South Shore Standup Paddle (southtahoestanduppaddle.com) at El Dorado Beach and cruise to the Truckee Marsh to look for bald eagles perched in tall trees.


Tahoe’s East Shore offers Tahitian-like water clarity. Rent a board at Waterman’s Landing (watermanslanding.com) in Carnelian Bay and paddle to Sand Harbor State Park, where rounded boulders warm the water and white sand turns the inlets Caribbean blue.


The West Shore offers Tahoe’s calmest waters, along with stately historic mansions and lakefront watering holes including West Shore Café and Sunnyside. Or Paddle from Meeks Bay to Sugar Pine Point State Park with a guided tour from Willard’s Sports (willardsportshop.com) in Tahoe City.


The Lake Tahoe Water Trail (laketahoewatertrail.org) provides information on overnight, day, and multi-day tours of Lake Tahoe.  


Tahoe SUP Festivals:

Race the Lake of the Sky (June 29–30) features a 14.4-mile race to Emerald Bay as well as a five-miler, SUP cross, team relay, children’s events, and a “Sweet Move” competition for show-offs. racethelakeofthesky.com


The Quicksilver Ta-Hoe Nalu (August 9–11) is the oldest, longest-running SUP race. It brings top pros and recreational paddlers from across the country to Kings Beach on Tahoe’s North Shore. tahoenalu.com


O’Neil Tahoe SUP Cup is a three-race series that culminates with the 22-mile Lake Tahoe crossing on September 15. tahoepaddle.com/events 


Other mountain SUP hot spots:

Hood River, Oregon is a premier kiteboarding location. But when the wind mellows locals run the Columbia River on SUPs. “It started as a no-wind-day thing, but now it has grown into its own huge activity,” says TJ Gulizia of Big Winds SUP shop. On heavy wind days with sustained gusts at your back, you can actually paddle up-river against the current. Sign up for the eight-mile guided “Down Wind” tour (bigwinds.com). The Columbia Gorge Paddle Challenge (August 17-18, gorgepaddlechallenge.com) attracts top pro and recreational racers.


Inspired by the booming Tahoe scene, Jason Starr opened Paddle Surf Champlain (paddlesurfchamplain.com) on the shores of Lake Champlain in Burlington, Vermont in 2009. “Lake Champlain and Tahoe are kindred mountain lakes: big water, mountain views,” he says. Attend the Stand Up for the Lake festival (August 18; standupforthelake.com), or hit the water with locals during weekly Wednesday Night SUP’er Club paddle sessions.


Slide, String, and Jackson lakes near Jackson, Wyoming offer incredible views of the Tetons. Jackson Lake in Grand Teton National Park is a 16-mile waterway with small islands and inlets with eagles and abundant wildlife. Or take a river running lesson on the Snake and learn how to handle currents and eddies. rendezvousriversports.com


Paddleboard rentals on New Hampshire’s Lake Winnipesaukee “went crazy last summer,” says Chris Shields, owner of a rental shop in Wolfeboro. “I got calls all winter from people saying ‘I’m coming up for vacation and I want to get on a board.'” For a scenic tour of Winnipesaukee, drop in at the Wolfeboro Town Dock and paddle around Winter Harbor. supnh.com —Paul Tolmé

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