Saturday Was a Perfect One for Paddleboarding

The start of the paddleboard race season
Sixty paddleboarders turned out at Sag Harbor’s Havens Beach Saturday morning for a race that raised $3,000 for Kevin McAllister’s Peconic Bay estuary protection efforts. Jack Graves

   Sag Harbor’s Havens Beach seemed a wonderful place for Main Beach Surf & Sport to start its paddleboard race season Saturday, for the race’s beneficiary, Kevin McAllister, the Peconic Baykeeper, had spurred that village’s board of trustees to underwrite an inventive project there that, if faithfully monitored, ought to clean Havens Beach up.
    As the 60 competitors — some intending to do one triangular three-mile lap around the very calm and inviting Shelter Island Sound, and some intent on doing the two-lap six-miler — set forth, Sharon Lopez of the Sag Harbor Hills Property Owners Association, who had invited McAllister to a meeting a couple of years ago to see if he couldn’t do something to prevent sewage and road runoff from polluting the popular beach, thanked him for his advocacy.
    “We were very concerned,” said Lopez, “and very, very pleased to see that they’re finally doing something. It’s all the same bathtub, you know. . . . It was two years ago that I invited Kevin to come talk to us. I’d read about it [the pollution] in the paper. This was a beach, after all, where our kids were running around all the time. It took a long time for the village to act, but it looks as if what they’ve done with the ditch that you see there will filter the stuff out.”
    As for paddleboarding, Lopez said, “It looks like fun — I love it. I took lessons last summer when I was on Martha’s Vineyard. It’s very Zen. It’s good exercise and it’s nice to be on the water. Today,” she said, looking out onto the placid, almost wind-free Sound, “is a perfect day for paddleboarding.”
    “The ditch will become wetlands,” McAllister explained to an inquirer, “and there will be synthetic filters at both ends to filter out pollutants,” he added before excusing himself to get his dog, a Chesapeake retriever named Bodhi, “for Bodhisattva.”
    Karen McGlade, whose New York City fireman husband, Tom, was among the competitors, said that being a 10-year breast cancer survivor, she would definitely do Main Beach’s Paddle for Pink on North Haven in August. She was a runner, she said in answer to a question, “but I love paddleboarding even though I’ve never competed.”
    “Tom used to be a town lifeguard at Ditch [Plain]. He’s been a triathlete for years. As for the firefighting, it isn’t just about fighting fires anymore. It’s so different from what it used to be. He won an award for a water rescue in the East River recently, and they’re always training for possible terrorist attacks.”
    “It’s going to be a mob scene this summer,” she said in parting.
    The news of the day was the performance of Mo Freitas, a 15-year-old Hawaiian who, having arrived a little late, dashed into the water in last place, and who one hour, seven minutes, and three seconds later, having made two laps around with a paddle whose shaft was cracked during a flight from Brazil, finished in first place.
    His father, Tony, who was looking on with the Freitases’ host, Rick Wertheim of Stony Brook, the East Coast distributor of Focus SUP, said that Mo, who has lots of sponsors, was becoming a pro.
    “We just came from SUP World Tour races in Ubatuba, Brazil, where Mo won a race. . . . I’m a Brazilian by birth, but an American by choice. We live on the north shore of Oahu. I was a surfer when I was in Brazil, but I thought Hawaii would be a nice place to raise kids. So, you can say I’m a North and South American.”
    As for paddleboarding, the elder Freitas, who goes along on an outrigger when his son is paddling in the open ocean, said, “It’s great exercise and they don’t even realize it. Mo and my 7-year-old son, who can rip it on a 9-foot-6-inch raceboard, are always practicing buoy turns on a river behind our house. The little one counts each time the board whirls and flips up. They’re training without realizing it, they’re having fun.”
    Wertheim, when questioned, said that paddleboarding had become so popular in the past few years that “we can’t keep up with the supply.”
    The six-miler’s top 10 were, besides Mo Freitas, James Rothwell, 41, of Westport, Conn., in 1:07:47; Lars Svanberg, 52, of Wainscott, the race director, in 1:10:00; Taylor Resnick, 27, of New York City, in 1:10:19; Justin Dirico, 32, of Montauk, in 1:10:34; Will Brant, 16, of Wilton, Conn., in 1:15:05; Thomas Blackwell, 53, of Fairfield, Conn., in 1:16:52; Chris Defeo, 29, of Miller Place, in 1:19:09; John Erhardt, 38, of Smithtown, in 1:22:32, and Val Florio, 50, of Sag Harbor, in 1:23:16.
    Alex Bluedorn, 26, of East Hampton, who paddled a 14-foot board, was the top finisher on the short course, in 36:28. Claudia Tarlow, 35, of Sag Harbor, on a 12-foot-6 board, finished in 41:30. Erick Goralski, 41, of Sag Harbor, who paddled a 14-footer, finished in 43:46. McGlade, 49, of Amagansett, who paddled an under-12-foot board, finished in 44:53.
    Jack Dunietz of East Hampton, the day’s eldest competitor, at 62, finished fourth among the short course’s 14-foot paddleboarders. The youngest competitor was 9.