Tahoe, a boarder's dream. Six months of great snowboarding on powder that will eventually melt to fill the lakes below for wakeboarding. These Sierra Nevada waters have already launched some of the best wakeboarders in the world - Josh Smith, Igor Reoutt, Greg Nelson and Cobe Mikacich, just to name a few. With names like that and a few months of watching the Tahoe footage in Hit It, it was definitely time to check out the scene.
Besides being home to some rad riders, Tahoe's climate is perfect for board sports. Controlled by snow melt and snow fall, a late season snowstorm can bar a spring thaw until late June, but in the summer the air usually remains a comfortable 85 degrees, so it's really never too hot. The mountains also serve to protect the region from Pacific Northwest jet streams, making rainfall and humidity virtually nonexistent during the summer. Sound too good to be true? It can be.
Besides being overrun by tourists on the weekends, Lake Tahoe is 22 miles long, 12 miles wide, 1,000 feet deep and, with over 40 billion gallons of water, it turns into monster swells midday. Don't be turned off, though. With over 72 miles of shoreline, Tahoe or any of the other area lakes is usually butter in the morning from sunup until around 11 a.m.; then watch out for either the wind or the rampage of weekend warriors. The winds die around 6 p.m., and most of the locals are at Chambers Landing or Sunnyside for a punch, or one of the other bars on the water (not a bad place to hang your hat when the conditions are anything but perfect) - unless it's a full moon, and then you ride until you're so tired that you can't even stop at Humpty's for a Sierra Nevada Pale Ale.
Although the entire area is referred to as the Tahoe Basin, the region is just a cluster of little towns and villages sitting either on the water or on the mountain: Truckee, Incline Village, Tahoe City, Tahoma, Homewood ... Growing up in Incline Village, Josh Smith, one of the innovators of the sport, acquired a great deal of his riding style from snowboarding on the hills of North Star, just a few minutes outside his back door.
Just 20 minutes west of Tahoe City is Truckee, the home of Greg Nelson, pro rider/designer/owner of Double Up, as well as FLF (Fall Line Films.) Unfortunately, Greg and Josh were in Japan during our stay, but they hooked us up with their buddies for some killer night life and new faces, most notably the very stylish and unique individual Igor Reoutt, alias Krusty the Clown (just look at that hair), who makes Truckee his home as well. All three of these guys spend ample time on the mountain, and it shows in their super-smooth water style as they bust huge grabs and big spins.
The Man With the Plan for this trip was Cobe Mikacich, who makes his part-time training home just outside Truckee on Donner Lake, also home to our wonderful host as well as Cobe's better half, Darcy Owens. Donner is great deal smaller than Lake Tahoe; so much smaller that when driving a boat, you must drive in a counter-clockwise direction. Don't get me wrong, it's a beautiful lake, but early risers will definitely prevail with great water. Those of you who don't wake at the crack of dawn may have to suck it up in some chop and rollers. Builds character. Look what it did for Cobe.
The Mikker had been working on this trip for a few months and had us dialed with daily photo shoots using ultralites and parasails for rad angles. We were hitting Donner at dawn, Tahoe at dusk and whatever in between. Unfortunately all that fell through when Cobe developed a severe infection in his shin at the very beginning of our trip and had to return to Sacramento for care. This definitely put a damper on our plans, although the Mikaciches and Owenses hooked us up with their family boats. Cobe's leg healed nicelyfter a four-week break, but not early enough to score any photos.
As for me, my wakeboarding career also began in the Tahoe area about two years ago. A longtime water skier, I ran into Cobe and Eric Perez at an exhibition on the Tahoe Yacht Club. Obviously, Cobe blew my mind with the sick stuff he was doing then, so by the end of the summer, I had packed up my stuff and moved to Florida to train full time. When the idea for this trip popped up and Cobe invited me, all I could think about was waking up to glass and clear blue skies every day. Very seldom in the summer season is it any different; unless of course there is an enormous forest fire just below in the valley (which we encountered firsthand).
While making Darcy's parents' home on Donner our base, we managed to check out yet another local hot spot. Randy Harris, Johnny King, Igor, Heather Lee (the one with the money) and I made our way to Boca Reservoir, next to Stampede Dam on Interstate 80 between Reno, Nevada and Truckee, California. You might recognize the name from Nelson's footage in Hit It with the rad early-morning clouds. We didn't get the mist, but we still had a great morning on the water. Igor impressed us all by charging hard and letting it flow, while Randy, Johnny and I worked out some new moves.
After catching a quick bite to eat at The Kitchen (raddest heuvos rancheros you'll ever have), Igor guided us to the killer snowboard/wakeboard shop, SnoWave, at the entrance to Squaw Valley, right next to the ever-burning Olympic torch and, of course, 7-11. Definitely the place to check out for your boarding needs in the Truckee and Donner area. And if you're around Lake Tahoe, check out Porter's Ski Shop, which is conveniently located at several spots around the lake.
Truckee is also the prime site for Artie Krehbiel, Jerry Dugan and Reid Russell (the men behind FLF), where they can get the best of both worlds - snowboarding and wakeboarding. While we were there, the boys were editing their latest snowboard creation, Steak & Lobster, and they let us take a sneak peak. As you've probably already figured out, it rips. The FLF pad is super-charged with top-of-the-line computer equipment and a room full of top-notch video gear - obviously the secret behind their success. Well that and Artie's bizarre, I mean creative, mind.
As soon as we had worn out our welcome with our early-morning sets on Donner, we turned our attention toward Lake Tahoe. Noticing that the smoke had finally cleared (after three days) from the Donner Valley, we had high expectations of the upcoming day. Cobe had hooked us up with his brother Jared, who works at Tahoe Vista Sports at the North Tahoe Marina. Jared was going to captain a chase boat and guide us around the lake. As we passed over the summit and into the Tahoe basin, the sun was just coming up, and to our dismay, we realized why Donner was so clear: All of the smoke had moved into Tahoe. You couldn't even see the opposite shore. Absolutely no color - everything was a dull gray. No light, no photos. Heather was super-bummed and made us haul ass back to Donner in hopes of getting some good light there.
Besides Tahoe Vista, there are many other marinas in the Tahoe area. Most are private and store boats in the winter, while you're in the mountains in waist-deep powder. Sunnyside Marina, Tahoe City, is perfect for the person who is just passing through. The restaurant and motel are located directly on the lake. So when you get back from a day on the water with High Sierra Waterski School, you can stop right on the deck for a killer meal. Lee at the High Sierra Waterski School can provide you with professional instruction, for those of you that are really serious, or rent you one of his many tournament ski boats for the day. Tahoe City's public ramp is located right just north of Humpty's next to the Coast Guard station. Be prepared to shell out a few bucks to use the public ramps in California. They get you for everything, but it's worth it.
Tahoe's night life goes off in the summer months. With the drastic increase of population, due to tourists and Bay area locals, each bar has its night of the week that goes off. The Naughty Dog is