On the evening of the full moon Aug. 10 and for the sixth consecutive year, I will embark on a solo, non-stop stand up paddle (SUP) around the entirety of Lake Tahoe in one day. I will paddle all day and all night powered by a plant-based diet and a commitment to speak out for factory farmed animals with the Vegan 1 Day Project.
The Vegan 1 Day Project is a grass roots effort to encourage the public to adopt a vegan diet for at least one day out of the year, for health, the environment and the animals.
Many people mistakenly think committing to a vegan diet is restrictive and difficult. In reality, a whole food, plant-based diet is healthy, compassionate and easy. Striving to accomplish something very difficult by paddling alone, non-stop around Lake Tahoe in less than 24 hours, is an act of support for those wanting to make a positive change, even if just for one day.
I’ve been a lifelong surfer and an elite SUP paddle racer, competing internationally, but the one day paddle around Lake Tahoe is not a race. It’s a fun way of showing people we can be strong and compassionate while eating plants instead of animals. I’ve adhered to a plant based diet for over 30 years and I’ve heard practically every false notion about how vegans are weak and somehow nutrient deficient.
In fact, last year at an SUP race competition, while standing in the after race lunch queue, I asked the race organizer if there were any vegan options. The race organizer kindly announced that vegan, veggie wraps were available. Some of the racers behind me overheard the exchange, and quipped, “you can’t paddle fast on a veggie wrap!” With an agreeable smile, I turned to ask what their time was in the race. And as it turns out, they finished 3 minutes behind me, so I playfully suggested the veggie wrap to them for lunch.
Public interest in vegan foods has gained enormous momentum in recent years, but there still remains misinformation and perceived obstacles.
Paddling alone all day and night, 72 miles around Tahoe for the Vegan 1 Day Project is difficult, but pales in comparison to what animals experience on factory farms and in slaughterhouses; like chickens in battery cages or pigs in metal crates — crammed in so tightly they can’t turn around for most of their lives.
Humans can get all of the protein and nutrition needed in a whole food, plant-based diet, and going vegan for even just one day has a positive effect on our consciousness, setting a powerful intention for better health and a more compassionate world.
It has been enormously rewarding to see the Lake Tahoe paddle has grown in popularity and prompted other groups of plant-powered athletes to be a part of the Vegan 1 Day Project with their own endurance events, including long distance running and cycling to inspire others with their physical strength and determination.
To use the words of Martin Luther King Jr., “The arc of the moral universe is long, but bends towards justice.”
And for me, the arc bends 72 miles around the circumference of Lake Tahoe, on a stand up paddle board.
John Merryfield lives with his wife Carol in Lake Tahoe where he works as a painting contractor and in Los Barriles, Baja, Mexico where is surfs. He is the director of www.vegan1day.org.
“The one day paddle around Lake Tahoe is not a race. It’s a fun way of showing people we can be strong and compassionate while eating plants instead of animals.”