Gina Bradley, a city kid who took to the water once she’d graduated from the University of Vermont, said during a conversation the other day at her Paddle Diva office at the Shagwong Marina that she liked it that in a 90-minute lesson she would make the water completely accessible to women who otherwise might never venture forth.
Stand-up paddleboarding, which she’s teaching now — though she began her waterborne career soon after college as a scuba diving instructor in the Caribbean — was easy, said the lively, intrepid Bradley, who incorporates what she’s learned over the years as a diving instructor, sailor, sailboarder, and swimmer — in short, all that she’s learned about the water and winds — into her classes.
She came here to boardsail at Lazy Point, Napeague, about a dozen years ago, having returned from Cozumel and the Cayman Islands to New York City, where she’d grown up, to get “a real job” as a marketer of Web site designs to corporations “just when the Web began to get hot.”
Soon, though, Napeague Harbor and its surroundings exerted more of a pull than moneymaking. “I fell in love with this place. . . . In 2000, I bought two cottages very close to Lazy Point, renovated them, lived in one, and rented out the other. . . .”
That was also the year, she said, in which she was persuaded by one of her friends to take a surfing lesson at Ditch Plain from Scott Bradley — she knew more about the sport than she let on — a lover of the water also, who’d grown up clamming and surfing in Sayville, and who was to become her husband.
“I knew right away that everything about him was 100 percent right. . . . By day, he’s in a suit and tie, driving a Prius, handling the insurance plans of medium to large-size businesses in the tristate region, by night he’s the most amazing father of two [Emma, 9, and James, 6] and husband to me, and on the weekends you can find him teaching water safety to the kids in the junior lifeguard program. He’s also a member of East Hampton’s Volunteer Ocean Rescue Squad, and, with his best friend, Lars Svanberg, and Fred Doss and Eddie Cashin, he founded Paddlers 4 Humanity. . . . He’s not not worked a day in his life. This man works. And he’s a caregiver, a volunteer, an open ocean paddleboarder . . . he’s amazing.”
Back to paddleboarding, Bradley, who wears her blond hair in braids, and who, when she teaches, is upbeat and encouraging, said she didn’t like it initially, which is to say about seven years ago when her husband and his triathletic training partner, Svanberg, brought some of the first boards out here.
“I didn’t get it,” she said. “I hadn’t had the proper instruction. So, I began watching videos and went onto the Internet, and I picked up the correct techniques and began seeing the benefits. I was getting stronger and yet it seemed effortless . . . it’s very good for your core. . . . I’d say if you do it two to three days a week for a month you’ll begin to see the results.”
Women, she said, were more apt pupils than men. Asked why, she replied, with a smile, “They’re better listeners.”
What she learned Bradley passed on to her friends — Diane Engstrom, Anita Hodgens, and Jennifer Ford among them. And soon, after she’d taken them out into Gardiner’s Bay, she realized she wanted to teach the sport and, as a spinoff, to familiarize more and more women with the stresses the oceans and inland waters were undergoing.
She’s been teaching stand-up paddleboarding for the past three years — her favorite spots being Three Mile Harbor, Accabonac Harbor, and Sagg Pond. The following morning, she said, she would lead women students on an eight-mile paddle from Landing Lane in Accabonac Harbor to Lazy Point, where one of her instructors, Rob Grinnel, would pick them up and drive them back to the marina.
She had begun with seven boards and a pickup truck, and now has 30. Shari Hymes, a kayaker, adventure racer, and mountain climber, had helped her develop the business, she said.
Because of the sport’s rapidly increasing popularity, Bradley’s at the marina seven days a week, so there’s rarely a chance when she and her husband can get out on the water by themselves in the summer. Just the night before, he’d come over at the end of the day and, after relaying the news that the nanny had taken the kids to the movies, said, “Let’s go!”
She could only smile and roll her eyes.