Heads UP: Avoid These Common Beginner Mistakes Paddle Boarding Lake Tahoe

standup paddle boarding Lake Tahoe Whale Beach SUP

Every year, good ‘ole Big Blue is voted one of the best places in the world to Standup Paddle Board. With our views and unreal clear waters, it shouldn’t be a shock. If it’s your 1st time paddle boarding Lake Tahoe, here’s 5 of the most common beginner mistakes to avoid. Or if you’re an experience paddler, be sure to check out our article: Paddleboarding Tahoe – Like Walking On Water… Only Better.

Wear A P.F.D.

two people paddleboarding Tahoe on a summer day
Image appears courtesy: Sierra Business Council

Yes, we all want that perfect bronze tan, but it’s not worth your life. You will fall, and when you do that life jacket will save you. Lake Tahoe’s waters are VERY cold. It isn’t hypothermia that will kill you though. It is the cold-water shock. Every year multiple people perish because of this. To make sure you don’t become a statistic, just wear the jacket. And once you’re done paddle boarding Lake Tahoe, you can tan to your heart’s content on the beach.

Don’t Let The Wind Dictate

While it’s a nice philosophy just to take what Mother Nature gives you, paddle boarding Lake Tahoe can lead to big dangers. You should NEVER let the wind dictate where you go. Tahoe’s summer weather may provide lots of sunshine, but it also churns up some hefty winds in the afternoon known as the “Washoe Zephyr.” Either go early or find a protected beach for your 1st time paddle boarding Lake Tahoe. It’s always a good idea to paddle INTO the wind first since you have the most energy.

Start On Your Knees

Unless you have the balance of a nimble mountain lion, we suggest starting on your knees first. This puts the center of gravity lower on the board providing you a chance to get comfortable. And since you’re lower on the board also hold the paddle lower.

Like Life… Be Centered

Kayakers and SUPers enjoying the east shore of Lake Tahoe
Image appears courtesy: Sierra Business Council

This is also a good time to find out the exact center of the board. A lot of beginners when they start paddle boarding Lake Tahoe stand too far back. This creates more drag in the water and thus more work for you. It also makes it less stable. You want the board to be as flat in the water as possible so it gives you as much gliding ability as possible.

Hold The Paddle Correctly

This might be the biggest mistake first timers do and that’s holding the paddle incorrectly. You would think you’d want the angled part towards you so that you’re creating a scooping motion. This in fact will make the blade shift from side to side uncontrollably in your hand. Instead, you should have the angle of the paddle held AWAY from you and use the flat part to paddle. This will push the water better during your stroke and put less pressure on your wrists, elbows, and shoulders.

We can’t stress this enough – be sure to ALWAYS wear a life jacket. In addition, it’s a good idea to submit a Float Plan, and of course, check the weather ahead of time. The goal is to have fun AND come home safe and sound.

The Lake Tahoe Water Trail is a Sierra Business Council sustainable recreation tourism project. Learn more about SBC's innovative social, environmental and economic development projects in the Sierra Nevada at www.sierrabusiness.org.


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Sierra Business Council and the Lake Tahoe Water Trail Committee and their contributors will be in no way responsible for personal injury or damage to personal property arising in conjunction with the use of this website or printed materials. Good judgment and planning are critical to any successful outing. Before heading out on the water, it is recommended that you check with other sources of information for the latest lake conditions.

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