In many ways, one could dub Race the Lake of the Sky as Southern California goes to Tahoe. Dana Point’s The Paddle Academy is here in force – we were told every child and their parents made the trip – and boards sporting stickers from West Coast Paddle Sports in San Diego dot the receding shoreline.

After Saturday morning’s El Dorado 5 Miler, several paddlers took advantage of the weather and seized the opportunity to paddle out in the afternoon sun, place their paddles and trucker hats on their boards and jump into the sparkling blue waters of Lake Tahoe. Danny Ching ran away from the roughly 300 competitors and won the competition by over a minute to remain the undisputed champion of the 5.5 mile technical course and its 18 buoy turns.

The race began with a “Y” format in which competitors had the option to make their way from the start around one of two yellow buoys. The format split up the crowd and rumor has it the yellow buoy on the left afforded paddlers a course that was .6 miles shorter than its counterpart on the right. Whether or not this is true has not been independently verified, although the lead paddlers all appeared to have lined up in position for the left hand hole shot at the beginning of the race.

Kenny Kaneko, Race the Lake of the Sky

Kenny Kaneko holds off Noah Hopper for third place.

Regardless, the contest featured a number of notable performances as Australia’s Kelly Margetts claimed second overall in a pitted battle with Kenny Kaneko of Japan and California’s own, Noah Hopper. Hopper made a concerted push in the final seconds as the athletes descended the finish chute, but in the end it was too little, too late as the technically proficient Kaneko kept Hopper at bay to complete the podium with a third place finish.

The battle among the women’s elite paddlers was equally thrilling as The Paddle Academy’s young Shae Foudy narrowly lost to New Zealand’s Annabel Anderson when she slipped off her board in the final meters of the race.

The venue at El Dorado Beach is a superb location to host a stand up paddling competition. Paddlers and spectators could be seen wading several hundred meters out into the lake as the record low water level forced organizers to stage the competition a considerable distance beyond the Lake Tahoe’s normal shoreline.

While the lake level may be low, the spirits of paddlers remained high throughout the day as the enigmatic voice of Race the lake of the Sky’s announcer Dreu Murin echoed across the water along with the hosted music supported by the on site DJ. Many paddlers and their families could be seen frequenting Sprouts Cafe down the street from the event site or sipping coffee and enjoying fresh bagels outside of Rude Brother’s Bagels and Coffee next door in the morning after crawling over sleepy-eyed from the nearby campground across the street.

There is no prize money up for grabs at Race the Lake of the Sky, simply the passion and camaraderie for taking part in a great event that evokes the genuine vibe of the stand up paddling community. Orchestrated by Chris Brackett and his flotilla of staff and volunteers from the South Tahoe Standup Paddle with quiet professionalism and overflowing enthusiasm for the sport, Race the Lake of the Sky is unmistakably a destination event not only for the West Coast’s paddling community, but athletes from around the world.

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