An open room with two desks in a gray house in Tahoe City is humming as two, full-time event professionals get ready for a summer of adventure and fun in Lake Tahoe. Big Blue Adventure’s director of operations, Bryan Rickards, is shopping for a new medal company and telling me about what brought him to Tahoe. It is the same reason that brought me here and Todd Jackson and the dozens of others: Lake Tahoe’s shocking beauty and range of outdoor opportunities.
When Big Blue Adventure’s founder and CEO Todd Jackson gets off the phone, he offers me some tea and we sit down to chat. Jackson and Rickards are getting prepared for the 20-plus events that Big Blue Adventure has planned for the summer under the entities of Tahoe Trail Running Series, Adventure Sports Week, Big Blue Waterman Challenge and more.
He came to Tahoe to help put on an XTERRA event. The beauty of the region stuck with him.
Jackson is originally from Ann Arbor, Mich., where he grew up near a lake and liked to play hockey, sail and windsurf. In 1980, he moved to California to pursue his education at University of California, Berkeley, and continued to stay involved in windsurfing and endurance sport events. He came to Tahoe to help put on an XTERRA event. The beauty of the region stuck with him. In 2003, Jackson and his wife, Julie Barnett, moved to North Lake Tahoe to become full-time residents.
“I wanted to be where it was dark at night,” he says. “I wanted that lifestyle.” He had roots in the community and found the people of North Lake Tahoe to be welcoming and easy to network with. Like many of us, Jackson likes the seasons and the different activities available.
He continued growing Seventh Wave Productions/Big Blue Adventure, starting out with one event in Lake Tahoe in 2002 with 400 people participating, to coordinating 22 events in 2016 with an estimated 6,000 participants. This year also features the annual Adventure Sports Week from June 17 to 26.
When asked what his favorite event is, he had to think about it. “That’s a loaded question because I think about them all in different ways,” he says.
Harry Lefrak | Big Blue Adventures
He finally admitted that the XTERRA is closest to his heart because it was partially the reason why he moved to Tahoe. The XTERRA offers the full Tahoe experience, from swimming in the cold lake to biking the Tunnel Creek classic course. He reminisces about having to be technically strong in order to pass other participants on the loamy course in the scenic beauty of the Flume Trail and ending with a 6km run to Village Green. “It’s just an epic event,” Jackson says with a gleam in this eye.
Rickards favorite event is the Run to the Beach Emerald Bay because of its finish. “To end on a sandy beach overlooking Tahoe?” he asks. “Yes, please.”
Jackson follows that up saying that the Tahoe Trail Run truly highlights all that Tahoe has to offer: swimming on a leeward shore where one can see the sandy bottom and biking along the iconic setting of Emerald Bay. It ends at Sugar Pine Point State Park, which Jackson says is a majestic place. “It is a really special event as it portrays the essence of Tahoe,” he says.
When asked who competes in these events, Jackson says, “We get a lot of locals, but people come from all over the world.” He notes that it seems that all the states are represented, although the core of participants come from California. He has done his fair share of recruiting, noting many former participants have ended up relocating to Tahoe permanently to become his full-time friends and neighbors.
After an hour of chatting with the two, they’ve made me anxious to get outside on a trail run. But if you need one more reason to participate in Big Blue Adventure this year, keep in mind that your proceeds go to a good cause.
“One of our corporate initiatives this year is to work with beneficiaries,” Jackson says.
Last year they made more than $25,000 in contributions to local agencies, such as Sierra Watershed Education Program and Sierra State Parks Foundation, and they plan to keep the momentum rolling.
If you enter a triathlon or trail run in North Lake Tahoe soon, it will most likely be hosted by Big Blue Adventure with Jackson on the megaphone rooting for you to keep going strong.
For more information, visit bigblueadventure.com.