Kayak Sailing in Lake Tahoe

Summer is around the corner and I’m sure many of you have made plans or are busy making plans for the summer. Between my family’s prescheduled plans there are a number of weekends we hope to use for day trips or short overnight trips. I like keeping a list of ideas to get the ball rolling, and one of the activities that tops this list is kayak sailing in Lake Tahoe. Kayak sailing is something we tried for the first time last year and we are hooked!

What is kayak sailing? It is basically kayaking, but also having the extra capability to put a sail up so you can use wind power to go long distances or just switch it up when you’re tired. Hobie has a model called Mirage Adventure Island which has a sail wrapped around a center pole that can be easily unfurled when sailing strikes your fancy. This kayak is also equipped with foot pedals and a rudder, so you can pedal while seated and steer by moving a switch that controls the rudder. Whether pedaling or sailing, this kayak can glide smoothly over the water covering impressive distances. Oars are provided if you need extra maneuverability or if you need to push off from a tight space, but this rig is not for paddling. Once you get the hang of it, the kayak is easy to handle. Everything including the seat back, height of the seat and even lumbar support is adjustable making this kayak super comfortable for long stretches on the water.

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Hobie Mirage Adventure Island kayak on the shores of Sand Harbor, Lake Tahoe

Another great feature about the kayak is that it has outrigger pontoons on both sides allowing it to be very stable. This is important when you’re going at top speeds with your sail up, so you never feel like you’re going to tip over. Although we never felt like we were going to tip over, we also never got to high speeds because there just wasn’t any wind that day. What actually sold us on trying this out was that you could get a kayak with a “trampoline” that attaches to the bars that connects a double kayak to the outrigger, allowing for a third person to sit on it like on a catamaran. This allowed for my whole family of three to go out together on the same kayak.

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The “trampoline” between the outrigger and kayak was very stable and comfortable and allowed for 3 people to go out on the same kayak

Due to the expansiveness of Lake Tahoe, it is the perfect lake to kayak sail. My hubby had found a place that rented these kayaks in Sand Harbor, which is a state park on the Nevada side of the lake (northeastern portion). You can make reservations online at Sand Harbor rentals, but last year he called only a few days before and made reservations (the website highly recommends that you make a reservation a day or more in advance). This is how he found out about how three people could fit on one kayak with a trampoline, since it’s not specified on their website. Sand Harbor state park does get very busy, so it is important to get there early to secure a parking spot (the lots get full by 11 am on peak weekends). I can see why this place gets crowded though, Sand Harbor is absolutely beautiful with soft sandy beaches, crystal clear waters and the famous Lake Tahoe views. This park also has a vistor center, gift shop and bar and grill, making it that much easier to hang out here all day.

When we got there we were excited to see that the kayak was already waiting by the water’s edge for us. We checked-in and went through the training given by a friendly and knowledgeable instructor. This took some time, but the instructions they gave us were very detailed and we took off in the kayak feeling excited, and confident that we would come back alive. We made our rental reservation for 10 am (the time they first start taking reservations), but we didn’t actually get on the water until closer to 11 am, at which time they started the clock for the rental.

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Heading out

The guy who set us up told us that he had sailed across the lake in 30 minutes when there was wind. We put the sail up a number of times and went short distances, but due to the lack of wind we found we went faster when we just pedaled. We ended up doing more pedaling than sailing, but we didn’t mind. Having 3 people allowed one of us to relax and rest while the other two kept pedaling. We hope to return on a windier day and use the kayak to its full potential.

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Across the lake to Kings Beach was where we wanted to go

The feeling of being by yourselves in the middle of Lake Tahoe (or at least far off the shore), with only the sound of the water and 360° views of incredible scenery is surreal. We also explored along the shores and found a number of coves that looked like they were out of a magazine with their turquoise blue waters surrounded by giant boulders in a gorgeous alpine setting.

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One of the many coves
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Inviting waters

The water looks very inviting, but when you jump in your initial reaction is one of shock at how uncomfortably cold it is. We didn’t stay in the water very long, but that didn’t prevent us from jumping in now and then for a refreshing cool down. What I like about sitting in a kayak is that you’re so low to the water that you really feel connected to it at all times. Jumping off the kayak is pretty easy, but getting back in is a little…awkward, at least for us. You might not want to do that when there are people watching :).2015-06-23 12.31.262015-06-23 11.34.34

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Foot pedals were adjustable in height and distance from the seat

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Heading back to Sand Harbor

If you’re interested in trying this out, Lake Tahoe is a great place and I would highly recommend Sand Harbor Rentals. Even though the beach at Sand Harbor gets crowded, once you get out far enough from the shores, the lake becomes yours. Consider giving kayak sailing a try this summer, I think you’ll have a blast!

5 replies to “Kayak Sailing in Lake Tahoe

  1. I’d never heard of kayak sailing before reading your post, but man, it looks like so much fun! That turquoise water near the coves (and you know how much I love turquoise, lol) is unbelievable. I’m going to check to see if they have any kayak sails where we’re going…I just showed the kids your post, and they said they would love to try. Thanks so much for sharing!


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