Surfing to scenic cruises: Unforgettable family water adventures

Andy and Amiya Finch. | Kayla Anderson

On a warm 70-degree early June late morning, the water was glass at Boca Reservoir. Hardly anyone was around except for the Finch family at the boat ramp, getting ready to put their Montara Surf Boss 2.0 into the water. I walked up a ladder to get into the boat, which isn’t like anything I’ve ever seen before a mix between a pontoon and a wakeboard boat. It ransmoothly and had so much storage that its “basement” was big enough to hold two 10 year olds.

(Amber Finch calls the 25-foot Montara “The Mullet” because it is like a party in the back with a businesslike wake.)

The head boat captain Andy Finch, a former Olympian who rode for Blindside wakeboardsbefore transitioning to snowboarding, represented the USA in the 2006 Winter Olympics. Hebecame friends with teammate Tommy Czeschin, who was also a pro wakeboarder. Andy’s passion for watersports reignited and he worked for the Tahoe Surf Company for seven yearsbefore launching Surf n’ Foil Tahoe.

Climbing up a ladder onto the Surf Boss, I met Andy’s wife Amber along with their kids, 10-year-old Asher and 7-year-old Amiya. Amber and I chatted about traveling, wakeboarding and all the mutual friends we have. When Andy rejoined us on the boat, we talked about how perfect the weather was out on Boca.

“I like to get people out on these lesser-known lakes because look at this, it’s warm, there’s no wind and there’s no one out here,” he said, gesturing to the landscape around us.

Amiya wanted to wake surf and she easily put on her shorty wetsuit, grabbed a board and hoppedin the water. Within minutes she was up and riding the wave, tossing the rope back into the boat. I had never seen someone so young take to the water so effortlessly.

That’s what’s great about going out with Tahoe Surf n Foil Tahoe: Andy has a unique coaching style that pretty much guarantees you are going to get up on a board along with top-of-the-line equipment. Amiya was motivated to watch, too.

Although, she took a hard fall and she made it clear that she was done. But then something surprising occurred.

“Do you want to go out on a board with daddy?” A few minutes later she was back out on the water, laughing and smiling like that hard fall never happened.

It was all thanks to Andy’s approach. He got up on the same board with her and within minutes they were riding the wave together (sans tow rope) with her on his shoulders, both having their arms out facing the boat and smiling. This is Andy’s secret weapon, his ability to get anybody upon the water and I mean anybody. If someone is struggling to get up on a board, he’ll get out on the water with him or her (up to 200 pounds).

“That’s a really fun thing to do with families,” Andy said after he and Amiya got back in the boat.

Andy also started hydrofoiling eight years ago, a sport that is quickly gaining popularity, especially with advanced paddleboarders, surfers and wakeboarders, who are looking for a new challenge. He can help hydrofoilers work on their airs and learn how to pump the board without boat power. Whatever families or groups want to do, Andy will help them do it.

“Our motto is, ‘stretching out smiles, Andy said.

Smiles on all faces were stretched that day. | surfnfoiltahoe.com

Family-friendly water activities

While hydro foiling is one of the newest water activities to enjoy in the Tahoe Sierra, there are many other ways to enjoy the region’s local lakes and waterways.

Scenic cruises
Take a sightseeing tour of Lake Tahoe. Grand Tahoe Charters offers guided tours aboard the wooden boats “Wild Goose II” or “Wildwood.” Or rent your own boat for the day from Tahoe City Marina or Rent A Boat. All are supporters of Tahoe Guide. | wildgoose2.com, tahoecitymarina.com, rentaboattahoe.com
Climb aboard Tahoe Gal, an iconic, 120-passenger ship that leaves from Tahoe City with cruises along the North and West shores down to Emerald Bay. View historic estates lakeside while getting the lowdown on Tahoe’s history and soak in the rays inside or outside on the bow. | tahoegal.com

If you’re staying in South Lake Tahoe, the 500-passenger M.S. Dixie II is another boat that cruises the southwest shore and Emerald Bay. The boat is docked at Zephyr Cove Resort; food and drinks are available to buy onboard and kids ages 2 and younger cruise for free. | zephyrcove.com

Float the Truckee
Take a leisurely float a few miles down the Truckee River between Tahoe City and River RanchLodge & Restaurant. Rafts filled with families and friends (ages 2 to 80), float past pretty meadows, mountains and over gentle rapids. The entire trip takes about 2 to 3 hours. You can do the float on your own and figure out how to get back to Tahoe City or got with one of two outfitters.

Truckee River Rafting has parking at the put-in site in Tahoe City near the wye; look for the yellow paddles. | truckeeriverrafting.com

Truckee River Raft Company offers parking across from River Ranch and shuttles guests to the put-in site. Look for the orange paddles. | truckeeriverraft.com

Whitewater adventures
Give the family a whitewater rafting adventure on the Truckee River where the rapids are bigger with Tahoe Whitewater Tours. The Truckee River Boca Run is a guided adventure through the Floriston Gorge, a scenic river canyon with small riffles and exciting Class III rapids. | gowhitewater.com

Guided tours are also offered through IRIE Rafting (raftirie.com) and Tributary Whitewater Tours (whitewatertours.com).

Parasailing
Go up, up and away over Big Blue’s crystalline waters and take in the landscape while being pulled behind a speedboat. Ride with the kids or soar above the lake with a partner in this unique Tahoe experience. There are numerous outfitters offering parasailing adventures on the North and South shores of Lake Tahoe.

Paddle
If you want a little bit of exercise while catching glimpses of what’s going on under the water, consider renting a kayak or paddleboard. There are a number of rental options around Lake Tahoe and Donner Lake. We recommend Tahoe City Kayak and South Tahoe Kayak & Paddleboard, long-time supporters of Tahoe Guide. They offer rentals and guided tours, including nightly sunset tours. Look for a coupon in their ad in this edition.

Join a guided paddle tour at Donner Lake in Truckee on Thursdays or from Sugar Pine Point State Park on the West Shore on Thursdays and Saturdays through California State Parks. | parks.ca.gov

Learn to waterski/board
Take your board sport ability to the next level on Lake Tahoe with water skiing lessons. While there’s numerous operators around Lake Tahoe, High Sierra Water Ski School has been around for more than 40 years. Their coaches generally take people out on Hurricane Bay on the West Shore where the water is the smoothest for private lessons on wakeboarding, waterskiing and wake surfing.

Birkholm’s Waterski School on the South Shore offers lessons, charters and tours. Both are supporters of Tahoe Guide. | highsierrawaterskiing.com, birkholmswatersports.com