Saturday, August 15, 2015

Popping my Inflatable SUP cherry!

Thanks to the awesome guys at SOL Paddleboards, I got the chance to try out my first inflatable SUP on Lake Tahoe this past week.  After a less than ten minute "How-to" chat at Outdoor Retailer, I was off with a SOL Sumo board and jumped in my car headed for Tahoe.  I rolled into North Tahoe late that night, and with some last minute planning, and a wiggly, anxious, excited sleep, we jumped in the frigid waters the next day.

First off, I was super impressed with how easily I was able to get that board water-ready.  The pump was efficient, if not slightly challenging towards the end of inflating with my hiking arms (aka no muscles...), and the lashing points made it easy to strap my waterproof Hyperlite Mountain Gear Porter backpack to the back, and a dry bag to the front.  Within minutes we were shuttling cars and in the water.  My initial impression was that this board was super stable.  I was able to take a leap onto the board and glide right out on the water without any wobble or uncertainty.  In fact, it felt so stable that I went for a headstand right at the boat launch, and nailed it on my first try.  I had a good feeling I was going to enjoy this board.

We spent the next 5 days on the water, Brian in an inflatable kayak, Sara in the water, myself on the SUP.  Unfortunately, Sara wasn't able to complete her perimeter swim of Lake Tahoe on account of the freezing cold waters playing mind games on her, but that does not mean to suggest that her attempt was anything short of superhuman.  I would periodically jump into the water (or fall while doing yoga) and I could barely tolerate being in there for more than a minute or two at a time.  That amazing young lady swam over 20 MILES in that water before renting a wetsuit, and completed over half the lake before deciding to end the sufferfest.  I fully supported that decision to end the attempt as the poor girl was drained emotionally and physically from the water, and I missed her smiling face and cheerful disposition.  She pushed herself hard and impressed me so much, as there is no way I could have even swam a mile in that lake.  She is one hardcore chickadee and I am super proud of her.

As for my time on the water, I was stoked that the Sumo was a nice fatty stable board as it kept me well above the water, and it was sturdy even in the crazy wind and wake we encountered around the lake.  For the first two days, the lake was relatively mellow, and the wind was in our favor, but then we got to the south shore and headed west and north and the wind kicked up all day long, making the current strong and the water choppy.  I had to paddle kneeling and sitting at times when the wind was turning me into a human sail boat, but I always felt secure on that Sumo.  And the bright colors gave me confidence that I wouldn't get run over by a boat, an added perk with so much traffic on the water.  When the wind would die down and the water would flatten, I attempted yoga on the Sumo, as the stability, even loaded with my gear, was phenomenal, and it was fun practicing on the water.  I mastered my headstand and even pulled off a forearm stand at one point, though there were a few involuntary dips in the lake. :) When I felt particularly warm, I worked on front flips off the board, but I never did master a full rotation, though it made for some good entertainment for Brian.

(Photo Credit: Brian Ahlers)

All in all, it was a good trip on Tahoe.  We worked hard to keep Sara warm and encouraged, and she kept us entertained with her deep "underwater thoughts." I would have loved to have a live stream of what was going on in her head while swimming, Even though it was a miserable struggle for her, she showed amazing fortitude to push herself to get in that water every day.  And that little fishy can swim!

As the Tahoe swim ended a little early, I decided to head south to Bishop to attend one of my favorite trail friend's wedding.  My friend Liz that I first met on the PCT in 2011, and again hiking around on the CDT is getting married to a lovely gentleman Aaron that she met her first day on the CDT in 2013.  They started the same day by chance, fell in love, and now are getting hitched!  Ah trail love.  And my friend Brian from the Glacier hiking trip was finishing up an epic climbing road trip with some friends and I was able to meet up with them for a day of swapping stories and laughing until my cheeks hurt.  On the way down I was even able to sneak a quick paddle on Mono Lake.  The lake is so salty from run off that nothing can live in it other than brine shrimp, like the Great Salt Lake in Utah.  I was able to toss my SUP back in the water and paddle around the striking Tufa towers, created from mineral deposits.  Plans and no plans.  Just trying to go with the flow.

I also want to give a huge shout out to Kate, the owner of Bold Babe SPF Clothing ( for some great conversation at OR and giving me one of her awesome SPF shirt dresses to wear while on the lake.  Although the water was cold, the altitude and sunshine left us all struggling to stay covered from the harsh sun.  A Denver resident, Kate and I got to small talk at Outdoor Retailer and she offered one of her rash guard dresses to me to wear to stay covered and protected from the sun.  I wore it every day I was out there, as it dried fast when wet, kept me covered without lathering on harsh chemical sunscreens, and was pretty darn cute on top of it.  I wore it around town when we resupplied, to bed at night, and nearly all day on the water.  I absolutely fell in love with it since it fulfilled so many needs, and it was lightweight and really comfortable to wear all day long, with thumb holes!  I don't have may pictures of it yet (still waiting for Brian to send me the pictures he snapped) but the black top I was wearing in one of the first pictures was the dress top with the ruching pulled up so it could also be worn as a shirt. It really was an awesome top, and I expect it to get a lot more use in my life.  I highly recommend picking one up if you spend a lot of time on the water or in the sun and want to avoid the dreaded sunscreen chemical dilemma. Plus she is an awesome kind-hearted soul and the clothing is all handmade in Denver.  Support small local business!!!!

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