Just three miles from the North Shore, in sight of the finish line, Joshua Brackett hit the wall. The 8-year-old South Lake Tahoe resident left from the South Shore hours earlier and aimed to be the youngest stand-up paddler ever to cross the 22-mile length of Lake Tahoe.
"I was board support," said Joshua's dad, Chris Brackett, who followed his son on the journey last summer. "Nobody knew I had a rope in the pack."
Brackett was ready to tow his son to the shore, but Joshua didn't need it. His mother Jennifer Brackett had paddled out from Kings Beach to meet the group.
"When he got his second wind, I couldn't even keep up with him," she said.
Joshua finished the Tahoe Fall Classic in just over seven hours. With his dad posting Youtube videos and Facebook updates as they paddled, the feat drew a lot of attention from the stand-up paddle community to the youngster, now 9 years old.
"(The whole family) was rooting for him," Chris Brackett said. "They're pretty supportive of each other."
Chris and Jennifer Brackett and their nine children, ranging from 3 and a half months to 19 years, have all taken up stand-up paddling, some more seriously than others, but all with a smile. With the start of the season on the horizon, the group expects this year will bring even more fun and more events for the family than last year.
"All of us can do it," said 17-year-old Julianne Brackett. "It's something we can all do together and enjoy it, all the way from Jacob (5) to Grandma."
Last summer Chris Brackett started South Lake Tahoe's only exclusively stand-up paddle store and rental shop, South Tahoe Stand Up. The store sells a variety of shapes and sizes, but almost all of the boards are made exclusively for flat water paddling, rather than ocean paddling. South Tahoe Stand Up carries equipment made by Tahoe SUP, Flatwater Paddle Company and Lakeshore Paddleboards.
"We've got boards for racing, boards for touring and boards for paddling in waves," Chris Brackett said. "We've got a pretty good variety."
The shop has grown out of its space in the back warehouse-like section of their Harrison Avenue building and into the street front addition next to Rude Brothers Bagels. After some remodeling, the place has transformed into a full stand-up emporium, complete with hardwood floors, paddle-specific clothes and, of course, shiny SUP boards hanging from the walls and ceiling. And it's become more than a business.
"This shop is really kind of a hangout spot," Julianne Brackett, who watches the shop up to five days a week, said. "We're slowly building it bigger."
Just starting the store was a hurdle that caused some worry, Jennifer Brackett said. Chris Brackett's construction business had slowed down and he'd been thinking of doing the stand-up shop since early 2010, he said. Friends and family came through to help.
"We were driving down the road and I was just like, 'Let's do the shop,'" he said. "My mom kicked in. My grandma kicked in. My brothers helped out."
Family members take turns watching the store, sometimes even when they don't want to, said 13 year old Jenna Brackett.
"At some points it's been hard because we've all been gone so much, but other than that it has been fun," Jenna said.
On a shelf towards the back of the store sits a small wooden 'Most Inspirational' trophy with Joshua Brackett's name scrawled across it. Along with a custom green board from 404 Standup, Joshua also received an invite to paddle at Battle of the Paddle in Dana Point.
Julianne Brackett, 17, has also made a splash in the stand-up paddle world. After winning several races, she received a sponsorship with Flatwater Paddle Company. Though she likes the competitive side of paddling, she also enjoys some of the more subtle aspects of paddling.
"It's relaxing," she said. "I love watching the sunsets, the beauty of everything."
Down at Regan Beach Tuesday morning, where Chris Brackett has begun doing his morning stand-up paddle report every day on Facebook, the family gathered for one of their first outings all together this year. The boards came off the big white truck and were laid out on the sand. One by one, the family paddled out into the lake. The group poked around the shoreline and paddled up to where the Upper Truckee River enters the lake.
Chris Brackett paddled in and watched as his family drifting on the glassy surface. Little Jacob wearing a tiny orange life jacket tugged on his pant leg.
"I want to ride a board too, Daddy," he said.