On our first camping trip in Tahoe, we went biking as well as stand up paddleboarding. This was the first time we ever standup paddleboarded! And what better place to do it than in beautiful Lake Tahoe.
If you’ve seen some posts I’ve captioned on Instagram, you’ll know that I love the Lake Tahoe region. And after our Lake Tahoe paddleboarding experience, I’ve gained one more reason to love the lake.
Renting Paddleboards Recommendation!
Before I dive into the journey that was our 6.5-mile paddleboard adventure, let me share a few details about the paddleboards. We rented our standup paddleboards from UC Davis Outdoor Adventures. UC Davis Outdoor Adventures is a fabulous rental and experience (during non-pandemic times) arm of UC Davis Campus Recreation! They have a super affordable rental program, with discounts for current students. If you’re planning on taking a camping trip and need some gear, definitely go check them out! (Full disclosure: We did partner with Outdoor Adventures for this trip; however, we were not paid in any way for our review or endorsement!)
Since my car is small and had camping gear and food, it was essential to have inflatable paddleboards. The ones we rented from Outdoor Adventures came with collapsible paddles, a removable bottom fin, and a small pump. We fit 2 of these inflatable paddleboards + paddles + air pump in my trunk, plus all of our other camping stuff, which was super surprising for a small sedan’s trunk space! One of those things in the trunk was the ingredients for our upgraded camping Mac and Cheese!
Getting to Sand Harbor for Launch!
Now that we’ve talked about the paddleboards, we can talk about the actual paddleboarding. Alex and I woke up super early. We were camping at Goose Meadows on the Truckee River, which is on the opposite side of Lake Tahoe from where we wanted to go paddleboarding. The spot we wanted to head out to was Sand Harbor, a beautiful beach on the Nevada side of Lake Tahoe. We knew it could get super busy, and if the parking lot filled up, the park rangers closed the gates to the parking lot for the day. While we did wake up early, we did not leave on time, so it was a mildly stressful 45-minute drive. We figured we would barely make it before the parking lot filled up by the time we left. When we were 5 minutes away, we had reached the traffic leading into the parking lots. Then, I saw the parking lot ahead on my maps app and had Alex turn into it. We had made it, and we were so relieved! Once we went a little further in, we realized we entered the parking lot designated solely for boat offloading. So we made our way to the exit and encountered more stop and go traffic… And so began the hoping again. We were really kicking ourselves for not leaving earlier.
By some stroke of good fortune, we made it into the correct parking lot. Once we parked, we unloaded the paddleboards and started the tiresome process of inflating them. Well, Alex began that process while I went to the bathroom to change into my swimsuit. When I came back, Alex had already finished inflating the first one, and he handed over the pump. I did my best to inflate it but got tired quickly, and he ended up finishing the second paddleboard.
Like with most activities, we could not start right away as there were several mundane things we had to do first. This mainly consisted of packing all of the camera equipment and snacks and then putting sunscreen on. Once that was done, Alex got a shot of me carrying my paddleboard down to the beach for the Seasonal Cinematic, which you can check out on YouTube later this week! And then, finally, we were able to head onto the water.
First-Time Paddleboarding Thoughts
At first, we did more of sit down paddleboarding because we were scared- me of falling in and Alex of his camera gear falling in. Eventually, I started to gain confidence, and tentatively began standing up. Once I gained some balance, then came the tricky part of figuring out how to paddle. I didn’t know where to place my hands, how far the paddle should go into the water, how to keep my paddle straight, or how to avoid getting tired quickly. We eventually figured some of it out. I paddled twice on one side before switching to the other (before I was paddling once on each side and then switched to the other side, which was tiring!). I definitely will still need to lookup more tips for the next time.
For the most part, Alex paddled while sitting down. We felt it was too risky for him to learn how to stand up paddleboard with all of his stuff (including our snacks!). Our trip continued with frequent stops for snacks and photo breaks.
There were also boats on the water, which pushed large waves our way. That made it extra tricky to balance. I maintained my balance standing for the most part, but one of the waves did get me, and I fell into the water without my life jacket. So there I was shocked at falling in, trying to grab my sunglasses so they wouldn’t fall into the water (no littering!!) as well as my paddles. When I finally made it back onto my paddleboard, I learned that my sunglasses broke (they must have hit the board or my paddle), and the paddles floated. After that, I tried to be more careful about wearing my life jacket with the waves.
Sand Harbor to Secret Cove Journey
The views while paddleboarding on Lake Tahoe were beautiful. Great views, paired with exercise, is always a magical thing. However, after 1.5 miles, we started to get really tired, but we thought we were almost to our destination. So Alex checked his phone to see how far we were from our goal (Secret Cove -a popular spot for photos and part nude beach, we learned). We discovered that we were barely halfway to our destination, which was another 2 miles away. We thought about whether we wanted to continue going or turn back, and we concluded with a carpe diem feeling, and so onwards we went, with a quickly diminishing supply of sunscreen.
Boy, oh boy, it was a LONG journey. Once we finally made it to our destination, we jumped off some rocks, which was super fun, but the water felt icy for me, so I tried to sunbathe on the paddleboard. Honestly, I was exhausted and freezing, so Alex was very kind to rope our paddleboards together, and he tugged me along for about 20 minutes.
We also saw some rain clouds developing behind us, and we began to worry that we would get rained on. So we tried to out paddle the rain. Occasionally, we could hear the rain in the distance, but luckily it never reached us. On our journey back home, I will say I was sitting a lot more because I was getting tired. Honestly, I think sitting and paddling are even more exhausting than standing. Maybe it works out slightly different muscles?
Towards the end of our paddle back to our home base, Alex decided to fly the drone and got some great shots of us paddleboarding!
It was a 6.5-mile journey round trip for two first time stand up paddleboarders, so needless to say, we were exhausted. There were many times during our ride back that I did not think we would make it back to shore because of how tired I was and how far I knew we were. It seems that I feel that way about many activities (such as biking), though, so at least I’ve always made it back so far!