For surfers living in Lake Tahoe, getting up on a wave can mean a trek to the California coast. But there are days—usually in advance of a winter storm—when high winds bring surf to the lake. This happened last week, and surfers clad in wetsuits paddled out from Kings Beach, Tahoe Vista, and Incline Village to session the waves.
“It was as good as Tahoe gets,” says Scott Gaffney, who was out for two hours. “The water was still relatively warm, and that combo is a unique thing.” Gaffney says there are about 10 days a year when Lake Tahoe can be surfed. “For me, it’s beyond a novelty. It’s a great thing to do before a powder day. Typically on a really windy day before a storm, the [ski] conditions aren’t that good or it’s so windy the lifts are closed.”
Brennan Lagasse is another Tahoe surfer who is always on the watch for lake wind advisories from the National Weather Service. “The waves hit all over the lake,” he says. “But to surf you need a southwest or a south-southwest wind at 15 to 20 miles per hour, with gust to 40 miles per hour.” Even better waves occur when winds reach 20–25 mph with gust of 45. “When you are going out to surf Tahoe, you’re hoping there is enough energy from the wind to actually paddle out and catch a wave,” Lagasse says. “During this last storm it was different. It was more a matter of what was a better wave to choose for the best ride. They were all surfable.”
Photographer Ryan Salm got word from Lagasse that the surf was rolling in, and was on hand to capture the action. “It’s about having a good time,” Salm says. “Surfing on Tahoe is more about the idea and getting out there than getting the best wave.” —Olivia Dwyer
See more of Ryan Salm’s work at ryansalmphotography.com.