Kayak krazy: Companies chart tours as sport grows in popularity
With summer in full swing and record high temperatures bringing the town to a sweat, people now have another way to play in Lake Tahoe’s cool waters.
Tahoe City Kayak is launching the first guided kayak tours of Tahoe’s pristine and undeveloped East Shore, leaving from Zephyr Cove Resort.
“It’s a way to see Tahoe in a completely different way,” said Greg Field, marketing manager for Tahoe City Kayak. “Not only do you get to see the scenery, you also get the history behind it. It’s like taking a step back in time to Tahoe’s past.”
The East Shore features miles of shoreline managed by state parks and the U.S. Forest Service. The highway, which hugs most of Tahoe’s shoreline, departs for several miles along the East Shore.
Outcroppings of giant granite boulders jut out like little tilted towns, a quiet reminder of Tahoe’s geologic history. Stretches of warm, sandy beach pop up between mansions perched on granite-strewn hillsides.
The East Shore is also well-known for its many spots to gawk at the lake’s famed clarity. Mark Twain once wrote that Lake Tahoe had the “fairest crystal clear water as comparable to floating high aloft in mid-nothingness, so empty and airy did the spaces seem below.”
Getting out on the water in any watercraft also affords a panoramic view of Tahoe’s hundreds of square miles of snow-capped peaks and forests.
“It’s a very personal way to experience Lake Tahoe,” Field said. Owner Andrew Laughlin provides rentals and sales out of his shop in Tahoe City and launches tours from Sand Harbor, Tahoe City, Kings Beach and Emerald Bay.
Tahoe’s kayaking companies are riding the wave of an adventure sports boom that started more than a decade ago.
“The industry has grown amazingly,” said Bob Kingman, champion of the Lake Tahoe Water Trail, which maps out docking points, rest stops, food and camping areas around the entire lakeshore.
The impact has not been lost on small companies in Tahoe.
“People all over America, from all cultures, are trying these new sports,” said Debra Hurne, manager of Kayak Tahoe out of Timber Cove in South Shore. “It had this huge growth spurt a couple of seasons ago and manufacturers jumped on that band wagon immediately.”
Kayak Tahoe offers several tours, including Emerald Bay and the Upper Truckee River, as well as sunset and moonlight tours.
“Kayaking makes these little pockets more accessible; there’s more beach access from the water than from the road,” Hurne said. “You just pull up and the water is clean, clear and swimmable.”
Tahoe City Kayak is banking on luring customers from other water sports that require an extra chunk of change for gas.
Their three-hour tour of the East Shore is $85 per person and includes kayak, guide and a meal at Zephyr Cove restaurant.
New pedal-driven kayaks open the sport to all ability levels, Field said, since most peoples’ legs are stronger than their arms. They hope pedal kayaks will encourage families to take the adventure together. Even dogs are welcome, Field said.
Guides help ensure a safe trip without incident.
“A guide’s experience will be invaluable,” said Kingman. “Kayaking is not something that should be taken lightly. It deserves appropriate training and knowledge of paddling and safety procedures.”
Weather on Lake Tahoe is very predictable, making it easier to plan a safe trip. Many mornings are calm and glassy, with wind picking up in the afternoon. An early start can almost guarantee an easy and fun day paddling, Field said.
To view a video of Tahoe City Kayak introducing their tour, visit http://www.TahoeDaily
Tribune.com and go to “Multimedia features.”
— Tahoe City Kayak: (530) 581-4336
— Kayak Tahoe: (530) 544-2011
Lake Tahoe Community College is offering several kayak courses this summer. An August course features an overnight trip to Emerald Bay. For information visit http://www.ltcc.edu and search the schedule for Wilderness Studies, keyword “kayak.”