Shred the gnar this summer!

By Holly Zynda

Perhaps you went surfing last year in Hawaii and now you’re in love, maybe you recently moved from SoCal, or you’ve lived in the area for years and always wanted to try it, lucky you surfing is in extreme pursuit by visitors in the high desert. Despite the fact that it lies 200+ miles from the Pacific Coast (and an order of magnitude further from the Atlantic), the Reno/Tahoe area offers a variety of opportunities for surfers. Whether the wind is blowing strong, creating surfable waves on the lake; boats are kicking up massive wakes; or the Truckee River is providing back-flow among the rapids in downtown Reno, surfers can get their fix along the Nevada/California “boarder.”

If Surfing is your thing, you don’t have to miss out just because you’re inland.


Straight up surfing the waves of Tahoe is a real possibility on very windy days where gusts can reach 70 mph. High winds create fetch, which after blasting over the vast 191.6-square-mile surface of the lake, organize and form head-high waves to carve or tube. Local surfers are truly dedicated, with a standard surfboard or quiver handy just waiting to brave these special days. The lake is scattered with beach breaks, from the waterfront behind Beach Retreat and Lodge in South Lake to the shores of Sugar Pine State Park in Stateline. And you can find breakers among the docks in King’s Beach. tahoebeachretreat.com

On regular flat-water days, or even slightly choppy days, I like to engage in the “hiking of surfing” — a.k.a. paddleboarding. On all of those in-between days, I take out my touring board from VESL, which I purchased from SUP Tahoe. There are abundant opportunities to paddle-board around the lake on my own or with friends armed with gear from many rental outlets scattered around the lake. Notably, Zephyr Cove Resort and South Tahoe Standup Paddle rent boards, so out-of-town friends are within easy reach of the marshes of Reagan Beach and Kiva Beach on the west and the picturesque flat waters of Sand Harbor and Skunk Harbor on the east. supsouth-laketahoe.com; zephyrcove.com; southtahoesup.com

When my inner adrenaline junky kicks in and I really want to catch a wave but the conditions just aren’t on my side, I make some of my own with a motorized watercraft.

Create a nice wake with a powerboat and, viola, you can enjoy wake surfing! Grab a longboard or wakeboard, along with the perfect boat rental, at Action Watersports of Tahoe or Tahoe Sports. For wakeboarding, wakesurfing, water-skiing and slalom-skiing lessons, Truckee Watersports is the place to go. With expert instructors specializing in summer-season watersports and snow sports in winter, pros including Ryan Swenson can help you get started or up your game. action-watersports.com; tahoesports.com; truckeewatersports.com


Lesser-known alternatives also exist for stoke seekers from the area and abroad. Reno has a little-known surfing alternative — a well-kept local secret — that is riding the rapids of the Truckee River. The Truckee River Whitewater Park in the Riverwalk District even has a rapid where the water flows backward enabling folks to surf upstream with a shortboard or inflatable board. renoriverwalk.org

Oft forgotten but no less fun, wind surfing allows surfers to jet across the surface of Lake Tahoe with a bit of wind on days when the lines just aren’t forming. Though no longer giving lessons, Alvina Patterson holds the title of local legend in the sport. In similar windy conditions, kite surfing will help you get that thrill when the surf isn’t exactly up.

Tahoe Dive Center
Tahoe Dive Center



For those who like the idea of surfing but lack the execution, there are also a number of other water-based adventures available in the area, such as rafting. If this is your jam, check out

Truckee River Raft, where the guides will take you on the adventure of a lifetime. For a slightly more subdued experience, you can enjoy kayaking. Camp Richardson Resort Rentals will ensure you’re ready to paddle your way to adventure. Finally, if exploring under the surface of the water is more your style, Tahoe Dive Center can get you all set up to SCUBA, where you can explore the underwater parks, including those off the coast of D.L. Bliss, where huge granite boulders sit stacked in the clear, deep water. truckeeriverraft.com; camprichard-son.com; tahoedivecenter.com

There are plenty of ways to enjoy the water this summer. If surfing is your thing, you don’t have to miss out just because you’re inland. Whether you’re from a surfing locale, are a local surfer, or just want to try something new, the Reno/Tahoe area offers a ton of waves to carve once the snowpack begins to melt.