EDITOR’S NOTE: Several weeks after this story was written, Marley, 11, peacefully passed away in her sleep in April from lymphoma. Her adventures live on through her photo campaigns promoting the Reno-Tahoe region and the sport of stand-up paddling. “That sweet girl taught me how to live,” Turner told Tahoe Magazine after Marley’s passing, “and I’ll never forget that. You can see pictures of Breeze, Marley and Lake Tahoe by following Breeze on Instagram @breezeturner.
Five years ago, Breeze Turner was sitting in her townhome in Reno, scrolling through Craigslist in search of a stand-up paddleboard.
She’d tried paddleboarding a few times before at Lake Tahoe, and it seemed like a water sport she could get into without having to leave her furry sidekick, a golden retriever named Marley, behind.
After all, growing up in the British West Indies on the small island of Anguilla, Turner is used to life revolving around crystal clear blue water.
“When I took it out to put into the water for the first time, Marley jumped on it before I even told her to,” recalled Turner. “I thought, ‘all right, this is going to work.’”
She started posting photos on Instagram of Marley and her paddling around on their used board from Lakeshore Paddleboard, a Reno-based SUP company started by longtime friends Sean Adlao, Mike Tessier and Aytan Litwin.
“Back then I was posting these oversaturated, blown-out photos that just made me happy,” said Turner. “I didn’t know much about hashtags at the time, but I tagged my photos with #lakeshorepaddleboards.”
READ MORE IN TAHOE MAGAZINE: This story is included in the 2019 Summer edition of Tahoe Magazine, a specialty publication of the Sierra Nevada Media Group. The magazine is on newsstands now across Lake Tahoe, Truckee and Reno. Or, go here to read the digital version!
But after just a handful of paddles, Turner’s Craiglist board began taking on water — it turned out she had been duped into buying a much-older board than she thought, which was meant for a child — so she decided to reach out to the company to see if they could fix it.
As it turns out, the team at Lakeshore knew exactly who Turner and Marley were thanks to her Instagram posts. They offered Turner a discounted demo board — this one about two feet longer to properly sustain both her and Marley’s weight — and an opportunity to work with the company through blog posts and photos.
“Lakeshore is more of a family now than a business relationship,” said Turner.
With her new board, Turner set out to paddle the entire 72 miles around the lake with Marley, that summer. And with a GoPro mounted to her paddle, Turner captured the journey and shared it with her hundreds — and soon thousands — of Instagram followers. In just six months, her following had rocketed to 10,000.
But for Turner, it wasn’t about the numbers.
“I was going through a breakup and I needed a distraction,” said Turner. “That summer was the most emotionally fulfilling. The time that people talk about really finding yourself and figuring things out and finding happiness independently — that was completely about paddling and sharing time with Marley and being outside.”
Marley, says Turner, now 11, just cares about being near her, and getting to stare at the crawdads and fish while paddleboarding is a bonus.
Today, the 32-year-old paddler and real estate agent has nearly 54,000 followers from all over the world tuning in to see what adventures she and Marley — and now her boyfriend, Trent, and his dog, Diesel — are up to in Tahoe, where the four live together in Kings Beach.
Paddleboarding and Instagram have connected Turner with people that have become her best friends thanks to conversations that started with a simple direct message on the app or people approaching her IRL (in real life) because they recognized Marley.
“The first time I went to Ta-Hoe Nalu in North Lake, a big paddle festival, I was like, ‘oh my god, these are my people. They are positive and healthy and athletic and they love being outside,’” expressed Turner.
Paddling and Instagram have opened up opportunities for her and Marley to partner with brands she loves, like Zukes, Backcountry and Designer Shoe Warehouse, for paid sponsored posts. And most recently, it’s brought Turner and Marley to billboards all over the West Coast.
As part of a new campaign by Reno-Sparks Convention and Visitors Authority, a photo of Turner and Marley paddling on Lake Tahoe is in airports and on billboards in Reno, Seattle, Oakland and Los Angeles.
“The first one I saw was by Whitney Peak in Reno. There’s a billboard of me and Marley on the paddleboard, and it’s covering up construction on the side of the building,” Turner recalled. “I saw that in person. My mom forced me to get out of the car and take a picture. That was pretty wild.”
Since the billboards launched, more people have recognized her and Marley out in public.
“It’s weird. It’s really weird,” said Turner with a laugh. “People feel like they know Marley so well. And they do. I put it all out there. I don’t hide anything. It’s wild. I will never get used to it.”
“I never expected any of this when I started paddling and posting on Instagram,” she continued. “The most surprising part about having this Instagram account is the people I’ve met who have become my best friends. Sure, Instagram is everyone’s highlight reel, but it can also be a way to meet people that you have so much in common with that you never would have otherwise.”