Photo Credit: Damion Estrada
I had paddled into the magical waters of Emerald Bay many times before, but this time it was quite different. I felt this dream-like state encompassing my reality as I entered this surreal bay. This time I was surrounded by a tribe of hard charging world-class paddlers who were stroking fast and hard. The synergetic feel that exuded from this water stampede allowed me to dig deeper as I rounded the most stunning buoy turn in the world, Fanette Island.
Welcome to the Race of the Lake of the Sky. This paddleboard race event was the vision of South Tahoe Standup Paddle and their hard work has turned this vision into a reality. The Race of the Lake of the Sky was recently voted #1 paddleboard race in the world by SUP ambassador Anthony Vela. Tahoe South’s new stadium amphitheater, Lakeview Commons, serves as the setting for this action-packed paddleboard weekend. Top SUP board manufacturers and racers gather to celebrate this fast-growing sport, and the highlight of the weekend is the epic 14.4 mile distance race that goes into Emerald Bay and around the picturesque Fanette Island.
I started paddleboarding five summers ago, and from day one understood the benefits of this evolutionary sport, especially living at Lake Tahoe. Until I had stepped on a paddleboard, I had never been on the lake called the “Jewel of the Sierra.” The paddleboard was the vehicle I had been waiting for to explore this sublime lake with its amazing coastline and its incredible depths. I love that the engine for the paddleboard is my body – it provides a full body cardiovascular workout without equal. Standup paddleboarding has transformed my body: I feel stronger, more fluid, more flexible, and more balanced. Every year I try to go faster and further and I have been especially motivated now that I'm sponsored by local board company Wai Sup, a member of 1% for the Planet. This winter, I spent a lot of time on the water training for the Race of the Lake of the Sky and found a deep fondness for this season, with its epic all-day glass and its raging winter storms. I really enjoyed the solitude this season offers and discovered that paddleboarding is truly a year-round sport in Tahoe South for the salty adventurer. Fueled by my winter training, I'm psyched to go back into the dream, digging deep into Emerald Bay with the hard charging water stampede.
Damion Estrada, WAI SUP Ambassador
Damion Estrada lives in Tahoe where he is a high school teacher for the John Muir Charter School and an instructor at Lake Tahoe Community College, where he teaches climbing, paddleboarding, backpacking, and outdoor leadership. Damion is a paddleboard ambassador for WAI SUP and a team rider for South Tahoe Standup Paddleboard. He is dedicated to living a life in the natural world and thankful for living at Lake Tahoe.