Ernie Brassard remembers when he was the only one using a stand-up paddleboard on Lake Tahoe, and he can just about list the names of all of the 35 participants in the first-ever Ta-Hoe Nalu, a casual, non-competitive race he organized in August of 2007. "It was almost like a private event," says Brassard, 63, a long-time surfer and diver who moved to Lake Tahoe to retire, but instead got hooked on paddleboarding and has since become Nevada-based manufacturer Tahoe SUP's sales manager. "We raced from one restaurant to another."

Given the spiking popularity of stand-up paddleboarding, it was no surprise to Brassard that 237 participants registered for the 2009 Ta-Hoe Nalu, which was held on August 15, making it "probably the world's largest flatwater SUP race." Part of the appeal of the Tahoe event is that weekend warriors race side by side with sponsored paddlers, including Hobie's Chuck Patterson, who ripped through the seven-mile race in a blazing 59 minutes.  The top female finisher was 16-year-old speedster Maya Sprinsocm of Santa Cruz, Calif., who finished in just under an hour and 15 minutes. Brassard says an estimated 2,000 spectators took in the race and festivities at King's Beach. "The top world-class pros were competing with people with dogs on their boards," says Brassard. "My whole point is fun and family, but with guys like Chuck Patterson the level of competition was raised."

Brassard is most proud of the fact that by securing non-board builder Quiksilver as the event's title sponsor, he was able to provide "an even playing field" for 11 different SUP manufacturers. "It was really cool to see all of the technology here," he says. "All the manufacturers were showing off the latest in board developments." He fully expects participation to double for the 2010 Ta-Hoe Nalu. "People seem to have a special attraction to SUPs," says Brassard. "It's a very simple thing to do and the rewards are immediate." – Conor Mihell

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