Lauren and Amie paddle through a stunning canyon in Lake Powell.
Lauren and Amie paddle through a stunning canyon in Lake Powell.

The Line of the Week
Lake Powell

Llama Assisted SUP

I may have finally found my place in this world. It had seemed that I had missed the boat on many occasions. With my peers outdoing me on just about every occasion and in every sport I needed a way to stand out. I needed a way to leave my mark on this check marked planet. There were so many sleepless nights when I would awake from a sweaty nightmare simply questioning my existence. How can I go down in the record books?  My mind raced. All the lines had been skied, all the waves had been surfed, every mountain had had it’s flanks conquered by the first man, first woman, first Chinese dude with one leg, first Pomeranian with a glass eye, first set of twins from a Scandinavian country. Dammit, I want to be the first at something!!

I was sitting in the sand, under an overhang, sweating balls and in dire need of some water to jump into. The llamas were frothing and panting and the smells emitted from their two stomachs were as gnarly as it gets. I have always loved my cross country jaunts across southern Utah but I always found myself thinking about the crystal clear waters of Lake Tahoe in these situations. Then it came to me, “We should load some paddleboards on these beasts, haul them to Powell and scope the canyons in a different fashion.”

Although it was a great idea the boards were a bit too long for the attitudinally challenged llamas. They aren’t really into new ideas. They like chomping on flora with ease, spitting on their buddies within an eye shot and pooping in the river in peace. Fourteen foot long fiberglass paddleboards were sure to shake up their style. It was then that I saw it in a paddleboard magazine that was running a few of my images…An inflatable board was on the market. I am fairly new to the scene so I began my research. I clicked on the Naish website ( and saw a group of surfer dudes loading these inflatables into a brand new Porsche and taking them to the beach. I realized right then that I found my first.

I called up Naish, told them my idea and although they must have thought I was nuts, they loved it. Within a few weeks four boards, four paddles and four dry bags showed up at my buddies place in Boulder, UT. These were probably the first boards ever delivered to this tiny farm town in the heart of the Grand Staircase.

Amie Engerbretson leads a llama carrying a paddleboard into a canyon in Lake Powell.

The idea had been in play for two years at this point so with the help of BJ Orozco, a llama packer in Boulder. we were able to scope the location. It was a zone neither of us were that familiar with. The plan was to pack the boards on llamas into Glen Canyon about 5 miles to a spot where the the desert intersected the Colorado River on Lake Powell. At that point we would spend the night, inflate the boards, load all our gear and supplies for the next three days in dry bags and paddle some 25 miles. We hoped to find the take out point down river where BJ and the llamas would pick us up.

As it turned out (in the scoping mission) the llamas would be unable to make it past a choke in the take-out canyon and we would have to haul all our gear (including boats and paddles) two miles to meet up with the llamas. We had a photocopy of a map, survival gear (whiskey, cookies, etc.), two people who had never paddled before in their lives, two good looking gals, perfect weather, big smiles and a slight tail wind.

Lauren, Amie, Paul and Dave paddle through Seven Mile.

The days were calm, the nights were beautiful and the paddling was amazing. The lake was empty and the canyon walls engulfed on all sides. I would like to say that it was the first off the wall mission that I have ever come up with but that’s not the case. If it is the first llama assisted paddle board trip then I feel honored to grace the ranks of firsts. I would like to thank SUP Magazine, Naish Boards, Patagonia for their support, along with everyone who was the first to do something.

Stay tuned for the entire account of our trip in the feature to be published in the Fall ’12 issue of SUP Magazine.

To view more of Ryan’s photos, check out:

The Line of the Week is a weekly photo piece by Ryan Salm featuring some of Tahoe’s finest athletes doing whatever we deem rad. We will be using the term “Line” loosely to describe anything resembling chutes, big airs, pointers or any general madness. All images are the property and copyright of Ryan Salm Photography. All images are only to be used in conjunction with the Line of the Week. Any other usage must be cleared in writing by Ryan Salm.

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