Water you doing to me? How to SUP with a dog in Lake Tahoe

I had previously observed the scene—a woman gracefully skimming across the water atop a stand up paddleboard, her trusty canine companion calmly sitting at the bow. I wanted to be that duo; to enjoy a peaceful moment in nature together, to truly connect over a nautical activity. So when we headed to Waterman’s Landing in Carnelian Bay on Lake Tahoe’s north shore, I knew that our time had come.

What I failed to acknowledge when I dreamt of our SUP excursion is that my dog is terrified of water. To be honest, I think she’s even scared of her own water bowl. Perhaps it’s because she can see her reflection in it and thinks it’s her Thai nemesis coming to get her in the kitchen, or because she’s genuinely afraid that she may drown in the 1.5 inches of liquid. Either way, she’s obviously not comfortable around large bodies of water. So here is how the experience unfolded.

Our group of nine decided to rent a mix of stand up paddleboards and kayaks. I boarded my SUP and paddled along the shoreline. Lady was off leash, so she followed me back and forth; obviously she was excited to join. So I paddled in and asked Terra to deliver her to me, as the water was about a foot deep and there was a 0% chance that Lady would come out on her own. He picked her up and placed her on the wobbly board. To my amazement, she did not make a break for the sand, but instead accepted her fate. Apparently she’s learned to trust me over the past two years. Big mistake girlfriend.


As we made our way further from shore, and closer to the rest of the group, I started to get my bearings and Lady seemed only mildly freaked out. By the time we caught up with everyone, it was clear that she was borderline comfortable, so it was obviously time to try something new—standing up.

Don't be jealous of this tan.

Don’t be jealous of this tan.

Standing up, while far more precarious than paddling from my knees, was fine for a few minutes. In an effort to gain a more stable center of gravity, Lady moved behind me, which made for a comical scene when I decided to lower back to my knees for fear that the wake of a nearby boat would knock us over. It involved dragging her between my legs to the front of the board without tipping over. Mission (just barely) accomplished.

Struggle street as I tried to sit back down.

Struggle street as I tried to sit back down.

We spent the greater part of an hour in the center of the lake, laughing at the folks who attempted headstands on their boards and others who tried to pee without being noticed. When it was time to make our way back to shore, I got a bit cocky and decided to stand up for the remainder. I immediately heard a splash behind me and looked back to see that one of our friends had fallen in. I, obviously, began to laugh at her and before I knew it, Lady and I were immersed in the frigid water. Momentary panic ensued, but I quickly hauled Lady back on to the board before making my (super awkward) way aboard as well. She shook like a leaf for the rest of the ride but, to be honest, I found the little dip quite refreshing. And hey, it confirmed that she does, in fact, know how to swim. That’s good.


Lady and I during happier times.

While the experience differed from my fantasy, reality was far funnier and worth writing about. Lady was thrilled to get back on solid ground and I think that she may die of thirst before she again sips from the giant water bowl that is Lake Tahoe. That said, she’s a resilient little thing, so don’t be surprised when I write about learning to surf with her aboard.

In summary, here is how to SUP with your dog in Lake Tahoe:

  1. Rent stand up paddleboard from Waterman’s Landing in Carnelian Bay ($25/hr)
  2. Get your bearings on the water and have the dog delivered to the board by way of a 6’6″ man
  3. Don’t tip over within the first 5 minutes, which would compromise the trust of the canine
  4. Try standing up, but know that the dog will make it incredibly difficult to get back down on your knees
  5. Tip over with 5 minutes remaining, as you probably don’t want to take the dog back out on the lake again anyway
  6. Return the board, grab a beer, and enjoy the rest of your weekend in the woods



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    • Paula Grafft on May 8, 2015 at 2:44 pm
    • Reply

    Pretty impressive! I’ve tipped over a few times out there myself. Glad to see there is still water in the lake.

    1. There’s still water but noticeably less, that’s for sure! The boat docks of the multi-million dollar homes are fully exposed. People will have to anchor their boats and dingy out. That’ll be quite the sight.

    • Mom on May 8, 2015 at 4:45 pm
    • Reply

    Good job! But I’m going to buy Lady a life jacket!

    • aunt Patty on May 11, 2015 at 8:03 pm
    • Reply

    great story-very brave!!

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