Surfing Lake Tahoe!
By Tim Hauserman
Tahoe folks know how to make the best of the weather situation. Of course you ski right after it snows, and mountain bike just after it rains. But for most of us, a late November day with a 40 mph wind coming across the lake is time to put another log on the fire and perhaps a bit of Schnapps into your hot cocoa. Right? But for a small group of hearty adventurers, that’s when you put on a wetsuit, grab your surfboard and head for the lake to capture those big waves that Tahoe provides about a dozen times a year.
Yesterday, as the heavy wind came in from the south announcing an impending storm, I went down to the Kings Beach pier and watched about a half dozen surfers riding the waves. While I get into Lake Tahoe almost every day between June and late September, once the temps are 49 degrees and the waves are four feet high, my swimming days are gone. But this small group of surfers was having a blast enjoying the best that Tahoe had to offer.
Since I don’t surf, I figured I’d get some expert info on the surfing scene at Tahoe from Scott Gaffney. He spends his winters making ski films for Matchstick Productions, but has been surfing since 2000 and likes to take advantage of those few surfing days that come our way. The good news is his love of surfing rarely interrupts his love of skiing, since most often the days when the waves are big enough to surf, are the days in front of an approaching storm. The next day he gets to switch it up by skiing the powder.
“Surfing in Lake Tahoe is certainly a lot messier then in the ocean, waves are all over the place,” said Gaffney,” But sometimes you kick off a legit wave, and forget where you are.” Where you are is a place where you can surf one day and ski the next, and only drive a few miles each day.
Picking the right spot to surf at Lake Tahoe takes experience: You have to consider factors like the direction of the wind and how high the water level of the lake is, but Gaffney says there is a small, but dedicated group of surfers here. Some grew up in Southern California or Hawaii and now are here to ski…but relish getting out there on those few days where the lake can be surfed.
While I’m sure Gaffney wouldn’t turn down a chance to surf in the Pacific, “I’ve surfed way more days in Lake Tahoe than the ocean,” says Gaffney. And then the next day, went skiing.