Safety isn’t usually the first thing that comes to mind when you visit Tahoe. Lake Tahoe is a beautiful place that can take anyone’s breath away. However, you should always plan ahead for a trip out in its crystal blue water. In the summer, the water temperature rarely reaches as high as 70 degrees Fahrenheit, and those temperatures are usually around the end of the summer. Also, the weather isn’t always predictable, so be sure to prepare for your trip properly. Here are some safety tips to know before going out on the lake:
1. Dress for Success
A. Properly Fitting PFD (Personal Floating Device)
B. Clothing – Wear clothing that dries quickly (non-cotton)
C. Sun Protection, such as a hat, sunscreen, or other protective clothing – Lake Tahoe reflects sunlight, & UV is stronger at elevation
Tahoe is cold, and full cold water immersion should be avoided as best as possible.
2. Weather and Navigation
A. Wind and Waves –Lake Tahoe is often windy and wavy from as early as 11am to as late as 6pm. Plan on being within view(less than a mile) of your final destination during this (or any windy) time.*Head south and stay close to shore! – The wind usually blows from the Southwest at Lake Tahoe, so heading towards South Lake along the West shore keeps you in calmer water and puts the wind at your back on the way home.
B. Paddling Speed and Distance – Most paddlers average 2.5 miles per hour. Lake Tahoe is 12 miles across (4 ½ hours of paddling), so DO NOT ATTEMPT TO CROSS THE LAKE.
C. Set a Turnaround Time
D. Visual Cues – Look at the shore and remember landmarks to guide you home.
The weather in Tahoe can change in an instant, so be sure to go prepared.
3. Safety on the Water
A. You Are Harder to See in a Small Boat – Don’t wait for large power boats to see and avoid you. Take evasive maneuvers to be sure you are seen and give power boaters plenty of room. Wear bright clothing.
B. Rules of the Road Apply – When heading straight for another watercraft, the preferred method of passing each other is to move your boat slightly to the right, and pass with the left (“port”) side of your boat facing the left side of the other boat.
C. Don’t Cut People Off – No matter how fast you think you can go, when your path of travel is about to cross with another boat, it is best to slow down and let the other boat pass by.
D. Look for, and Avoid Obstacles – Submerged rocks, other boaters, and floating logs can be present, so pay attention to these obstacles and avoid them.
E. Non-Swimmers – We discourage non-swimmers from engaging in paddle sports. If you choose to do so, you should operate your watercraft in water that is shallow enough for you to stand up in.
F. Getting on/off a Paddleboard – Make sure water is at least knee-deep when getting on and off your board. The fin protrudes almost a foot beneath the board, and hooking your fin on the bottom of the lake can cause expensive damage to your board and/or your body.
G. Paddleboards are Fragile! – Be careful not to ram your paddleboard into rocks or other obstacles because fiberglass cracks easily and can cause the board to take on water.
4. Stay Hydrated! – Bring along clean drinking water and food, especially if you will be paddling for more than an hour.
A. It is easy to forget how dehydrated you are when you are in/on the water. Be sure to pay attention to how much water you are drinking because dehydration can sneak up on you if you aren’t careful.