tahoe crossing 2015 smoke start

A smokey start at the Fall Classic


The Tahoe Cup Fall Classic

The Fall Classic is one of those races you love to hate. Love the race when you are finished but hate it when you are at the 18 mile mark and have basically blown up. At least thats what happened to me for the past two years. This year I decided to take break from The Fall Classic, not a decision I pondered lightly but judging from race reports, pictures and other various social media data I would say I missed one of the hardest Fall Classic’s in history. Smoke, headwinds and difficult navigation made for a very, very tough crossing.

To tell the story and relive her experience of racing across the Big Blue, I have asked esteemed female SUP paddler (2nd place Woman SUP) and the new Cal 100 Race Director Teresa Rogerson to give us her recap of the day.

Tahoe Cup Lake Crossing by Teresa Rogerson

The 2015 Fall Tahoe Classic 22 mile south to north lake crossing: I guess it was kind of like SUP’ping confused open ocean chop, with no sight of land or sky in any direction, surrounded by and breathing in the smoke from burning lands, guided directionally by kind spirit guides on jet skis. It has been a long time since I have felt as >>out there<< as I felt out in the middle of Lake Tahoe last Sunday. For the first time ever, my Garmin was not programmed to show the distance I had already paddled (don’t change strategies on a race day), so I felt even further afield in the aquarium.

I could see water and I could see other paddlers ahead of me like kachina dolls ghosting over the blurred surface, shifting en masse when the bunch got word from the spirit guides on jet skis, that they were all off course, and to line up with the two boats holding the direct line. Thanks to the fast kachina dudes, I only had to arc a few degrees to be on course. I could hear Andi Traynor as she came up from behind me, yet a second time, to eventually surpass and win the race for the women. She was singing out loud, maybe Aretha. The sound shot over the water, over all of the chop, and the side chop, and the diagonal double back chop, straight forward through the six or seven knot headwind, and it got louder and louder as she gained on me.

Okay, so maybe that was just the mind-bent portion of the race, only about the 18 miles in the middle of the race. The other few miles- less than four because the Lake has shrunken due to a drought(!)- those miles were serene and eerily quiet. In the morning, I guess we could see maybe a mile out into the Lake from El Dorado Beach, when     race director       diagrammed the route and the landmarks we would look for on the North side. The weather report at about three or four miles out, we were assured, was bluebird, so we started off with the horn and the usual jockeying for draft positions. We never did get bluebird, but we did get a six or seven knot headwind, maybe a hundred drops of rain, and enough funny water that drafting became difficult. Unfortunately, the blues for which Tahoe is so famous didn’t sparkle about, as the overcast day flattened everything to greys and a nice, 5.5-hour session with navy blue.

Having said all this, I would never change my decision to have raced. It was amazing, and as usual I am humbled and inspired, and satisfied by the experience and by the people who show up. There is so much gratitude among the paddlers for the skillful work of Jay and Anik Wild, and to the crew of spirit guides who allowed people their pace, and herded us all to eventual safety. Several athletes backed out, fearing for their bronchial; and judging by the din in South Lake Tahoe the night before and the morning of the race, those were not unwise decisions. It left more fig bars for us, but it meant fewer boards at the lineup. Some athletes had to turn back or surrender and be brought in, not too surprising as conditions were the worst ever for this race. The heroes were the ones who came in by themselves, later at about seven hours, after refusing to give up, after most of us had moved on to beer and hearing stories about the sponsors’ tents blowing over in windstorms on Kings Beach just hours before, canceling the kids’ race and threatening the continuation of our race.

These long suffering heroes each finished solo, reaching shore after having taken accidental detours in the haze, or having gotten sea sick out there without a horizon to use as a reference point. On the beach, we made paddle arches for them as they came ashore and ran through, obviously glad to be finished and looking so fresh doing so. They were given complimentary entries into the race next year and seemed happy about it.

The skies cleared and the sun got strangely hot, as we swilled a couple of craft brews and ate yummy wraps and cookies provided by Cold Water Brewery and Grill. A BARK Commander prone board was raffled off. A shuttle was provided for paddlers and boards, and most of the world seemed a happy place. News of the latest Valley Fire ravaging Lake County, however, was a constant reminder on many minds throughout the paddle.

Race Results

Pictures from Facebook

Garmin Data is forthcoming.