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On June 28-29, 2013 Lakeview Commons and the adjacent El Dorado beach hosted the 2nd annual Race the Lake of the Sky stand up paddle races organized by South Tahoe Stand Up Paddle, On Course Events, and Riviera Paddleboards among others. Described by participant Anthony Vela as "The best stand up paddle race in all the world" in his top 10 article on SUPconnect, this two day series of races featured over 300 paddlers racing in 5 mile, 14 mile, and SUPcross categories featuring some of the world's best stand-up paddlers and brought people not just from South Lake Tahoe but all around the world to the excelent venue at Lakeview Commons.
The El Dorado "5mi" Race
Given the extreme diversity of events going on at the races, I had to focus my own efforts on covering one race, so I chose the El Dorado 5 miler. The course of the event was a highly technical course with eight left and right turns zig-zagging across the space in front of El Dorado beach. (The course, in fact, was so complex and technical that even the race organizers couldn't say for sure whether the course was 4.8 or 5.2 miles long). This race provided a lot of excitement close to the beach where the entire race was in direct view of the spectators, and the many turns and straightaways make a good introduction to the world of the paddle racing for the non-fan.
The participants lined up waist-deep in the water along the mile-long beach waiting for the starting horn. As explained by safety officer Rob Guistina of On Course Events the starting horn was timed such that "we're gonna give you a 30 second warning, and the horn could go off at any time from 30 seconds to zero, that way no one can anticipate the start and cheat." At the starting horn everyone piled on to their paddleboards and began a mad dash to the first bouy where the race began to sort itself out.
At and after the first bouy turn the race began to sort itself out into the shape it would take for pretty much the entire race with Thomas Maximus (T-Maxx) on a 20ft Riviera paddleboard taking an early lead in the unlimited class followed by Lance and Jeff Ericson leading in the tandem paddling class. Though the longer boards are notoriously difficult to manage in the turns, both sets of leaders displayed impressive skill in handling the turns, allowing the intrinsic speed advantage of a longer paddleboard in the straightaways to keep them in the lead throughout the race, with their advantage over the other classes of boards showing in their growing lead as the race progressed.
The real competition in the race was in the elite 14ft and 12.6ft board classes, where Anthony Vela and Jay Wild battled it out for first place through the entire race. Jay Wild, in particular, showed his emmense paddling prowess by maintaining a lead through most of the race while in the difficult position of breaking water for the entire elite class draft train, while Anthony Vela fought valiently for any advantage in the turns, always trying to get an inside or outside position while turning, sometimes turning so close as to almost knock the leader off his paddleboard in a few of the turns.
Unlimited Class: Thomas Maximus
Tandem Class: Lance and Jeff Ericsson
Elite Class: Jay Wild, Anthony Vela, Jeremy
Women's Class: Candice Appleby
To hear from paritcipants Taylor Rambo, Anthony Vela, Candice Appleby, and sponsor Maui Jim check out this video from Wake Up Tahoe from the day before the race:
Let the video play on or click this link to see the full SUP Playlist from Wake Up Tahoe.