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November 4, 2011

An Ancient Water Sport, Revived

Ever heard of stand-up paddle boarding? We hadn’t either, until a passionate ocean activist clued us in to this ancient water sport that’s experiencing a revival.

Ocean activist Gina Bradley started Paddle Diva, a stand-up paddle board business in Long Island, New York. Bradley was kind enough to answer some of our burning questions.

Q: What is stand-up paddle boarding?

GB: Stand-Up Paddle Boarding (or SUP) is an ancient form of surfing from the Hawaiian Islands, and in about 2000 it reemerged as a way for people to enjoy oceans, lakes, rivers and bays using a one-bladed paddle and standing on a longer and wider surfboard with a bit more volume.

While it is a wonderful full body work-out for the most athletic to the least, SUP also does wonders for the mind as you paddle through gorgeous scenery, on your own or with a group of friends.

Q: How did you get the idea for Paddle Diva?

GB: I started paddling on my own in 2007 and found SUP to be such a great way to get out on the water and so easy to teach my friends how to do it. It seemed like a sport for woman, but was really marketed to men.

So finally in the summer of 2009, I created Paddle Diva based on the premise that women are completely underserved in the SUP market. Since I was once a fitness instructor, wind-surfing teacher, and PADI certified Scuba Instructor I had a lot of experience working on or above the water.  We live on the East End of Long Island, where there are thousands of bays to paddle on and my passion for SUP grew. I knew that SUP for women was a trend that was going to catch on for women and I wanted to be the instrument to make it thrive.

Q: Tell me about your ocean activism.

GB: I have had a very strong connection to the ocean since I was a young girl, spending my summers on the beaches of Long Island and Fire Island. I lived in the Caribbean for five years and after that followed a passion to become a skilled Windsurfer. My passion about the ocean is mostly around keeping the waters clean, of debris, plastic pollutants and oils. I see the direct effects of these pollutants first hand.

Q: What’s the coolest thing you’ve seen out on the water while paddle boarding?

GB: I have seen so many cool things while paddling boarding from seeing a pair of dolphins who played off my board’s nose in Rincon, Puerto Rico, all the way to watching a storm system pull in so fast and seeing the drama of the clouds and the wind as the system moved in. I, by the way, escaped back to my car for refuge. Most certainly one of the coolest things I have seen is quite simple: watching a flock of birds working the ocean, catching dinner.

Q: What about the saddest?

GB: One of the things that deeply saddens me are the East End’s ponds and estuaries that are very close to people’s homes  that are overgrown with green algae from the fertilizer from lawns that line the ponds. It seems to me that this form of pollution is unacceptable. It’s an injustice to the fish and animals that live in the ponds and suffocate from the chemicals and green sludge.

Q: Anything else you want people to know about you/Paddle Diva/paddle boarding?

GB: Most importantly, I stand for making a sport, SUP, that seemed inaccessible to women, very accessible. I hope to take more and more women every year out on the waters and open their eyes to an entirely new world that they can now interact with and help us all to protect. Many of my clients have only seen the ocean and bays from the shore, SUP allows them to be on the on the water and see it from a new perspective while seeing things in themselves that they never knew before!

Ready to try SUPing? You can learn more about Gina and Paddle Diva at her site, and you can also catch her in Oceana board member Susan Rockefeller’s new film, “Mission of Mermaids.”