I did it.
14.4 miles on paddle board. The round trip from El Dorado Beach to Emerald Bay and back. An epic end to an epic summer. I did it.
After being a standup slacker all summer, I set a goal to take the 30 days of September to train and eventually paddle the 14.4 mile Emerald Bay. This epic SUP experience was on my radar screen all the way at the beginning of the summer, yet throughout the summer, reaching my goal felt allusive. I had plenty of beach time with my 2 kids, but just could not get much time out on the water.
In September, as our epic Tahoe summer continued, I finally got the time on the water I craved. I began my 30 Days to Emerald Bay Challenge by paddling from Baldwin Beach to Emerald Bay and back. Throughout the entire month I had amazing SUP experiences, from days just lazily paddling around Cave Rock with the family to a beautiful morning paddle at Echo Lake. Still, the Emerald Bay 14 miler was really intimidating to me. Earlier in September I’d gone on a 72 mile bike ride around Lake Tahoe. I was way more intimidated by 14 miles on a paddleboard than I was the 72 miles on a bike.
The day prior to my big paddle I had a few butterflies in my tummy. As night fell and I set my alarm to get up early, I suddenly began to develop a peace. I would be okay. I could do this.
My alarm went off at 5:30 on September 30 and it was dark. I made myself a high energy breakfast, got my Lakeshore Paddleboard Company River Rover on my car, and headed to El Dorado Beach.
It was a beautiful morning. The sunrise on September 30 was scheduled for 6:52 and I was setting off at 6:45. The water was smooth as glass and I would begin my paddle looking to a big, beautiful moon hanging over the mountains. I paddled toward the moon for about the first 45 minutes of my paddle and it was just glorious. There was a blueish-gray color to the morning. I paddled past Regan Beach and past the Keys. I was on my way.
A few different times the wind started to pick up and I thought my fortunes were about to change. Then the air would be still again and the glassy water would return. I neared the entrance to Emerald Bay and my anticipation grew. When I paddled into Emerald Bay from El Dorado Beach on the first day of the month I had come in very close to the shoreline so I wanted to come into Emerald Bay on this day from as far as reasonable out on the lake.
When Emerald Bay first opened up to me — I would describe that moment as one of the highlights of the trip. Fannette Island came into view and my goal was within reach.
When I came ashore Fannette Island I got my phone out. It had taken me exactly 2 hours to reach that point. I called home and talked with my wife and kids, took photos, had a snack and drank some water, and just relaxed. I spent about 90 minutes on the island before setting back out on the water.
I was feeling good. I always felt like if I could just get there, I could get back. Now, every stroke brought me closer, not further, from home.
As I paddled around the backside of Fannette Island, though, I saw a dad with his son in a little boat. He asked me where I’d paddled from and I told him “El Dorado Beach.”
“Nice,” was his reply.
What happened next put a wind in my sail. It would give me all the encouragement I needed to make it home.
“Wait, are you that guy?”
To which I reply, “…um, I’m Clark…. um… yeah…”
“Today’s the day! You’re doing it! Good for you! You’re half way there!”
As I paddled off he got my attention one more time and said, “Hey, you are one amazing piece of inspiration.”
I took it easy leaving Emerald Bay and explored a few spots I wanted to get a closer look at. When I entered back into the open waters of Lake Tahoe I felt like it was on my way.
Just. Keep. Paddling.
By the time I was nearing the Keys, I was ready to be done. The wind started to pick up a bit, pushing me toward the shore. I found myself taking about 20 paddles on my right for every 1 on my left. By the time I was done, my right shoulder was pretty sore.
For a long time on the way back I could not quite pick out my terminal point. I finally spotted a sandy spot I thought must be it. I paddled a little longer and realized that spot I was looking at was actually the marina at Ski Run Blvd, not El Dorado Beach. I could now see El Dorado Beach, which was even closer. And that was great.
When I hit Regan Beach I dug in to quickly cover some distance. Then, as I approached El Dorado Beach, I slowed down to take it all in.
4 hours and 10 minutes of paddle time after I’d started, I was done.
My feet touched the sand and I was done. I did it.
I was greeted by the same person who sent me off, Julie Zeid, who I am very grateful to for taking so many great photos of my start and finish, and who had done this exact same paddle 2 weeks earlier.
I sat on the beach happy. Happy because I had done something big enough that the first thought of it intimidated me. Happy because I had set a goal and achieved it. Happy because I live in Lake Tahoe and that by being on a paddleboard I was taking advantage of some of the best that Lake Tahoe has to offer.
I’m no longer a standup slacker. I’m on Team South Tahoe Standup Paddle.
– Clark Vandeventer