In an excerpt from her new book, Paddle Diva: Ten Guiding Principles to Finding Balance on the Water and in Life ($19, Post Hill Press), Hamptonite Gina Bradley dives into environmental issues on the East End.
Shortly after we got back up on our boards, a manatee swam alongside and we watched as he popped his head out of the water, took a breath, and then dove back down to head to the docks. Manatees tend to gather in the shade of moored boats, looking for fresh water that may be running from the docks. [My son] James pointed out how gentle the sea creature was and asked me why it had such a large scratch along its back. “Boats hit them by accident, which is why there is always a speed limit here,” I explained. “At one point they almost became extinct. They can also be sickened by the red tides which come and go in the heat of the summer months.” I went on to explain to the class that humans have created this problem through overdevelopment and pesticide use, but that it’s not too late to reverse the harm we’ve done. I like to share my views on environmental awareness and how we can help, planting “seeds of hope” in each student and giving them something to do as a takeaway at each location.
The environment is something that needs our attention now more than ever. It’s becoming more and more important for all of us to take social responsibility for the world’s oceans, as they are being more affected by human footprints and pollution than ever. The oceans and waterways need to be cared for and made stronger, much like our own cores as we paddle along them. I like to make the connection between the importance of feeling good about oneself and how that ties into being aware of our environment and the impact we have on it. There is so much in the press about global warming. Oceans and lakes with high nitrogen levels that allow for harmful bacteria to thrive cause the sea life to flounder and can prohibit humans from being on or in the water. It’s nothing we cannot reverse, and we will. When the environment is healthy, we are healthy; it is just that simple.
When I opened the first Paddle Diva center, I had a student, Susan Rockefeller (who is now a dear friend), who had an enormous impact on my environmental perspective. When she first came to me for paddling lessons with her two teenage children, she explained that she wanted to stand on the water and feel what it would be like to use her own strength to power the craft. This was back in 2010, when SUP was in its infancy. Back then, we still got thousands of plastic bags when we shopped in the supermarket and used plastic straws in our drinks without any thought as to how these disposable, single-use plastics were polluting our precious oceans. If you wanted a reusable water bottle, you had to rinse and reuse the one you bought from the deli. At the end of our daily paddle sessions over the course of a week, Susan and I would sip from the plastic water bottles I kept in my cooler. She suggested that I consider offering water to my students using a less wasteful approach, like a water cooler and paper cups. A week later, I set up a water filtration system at my shop that took tap water and made it 100 percent potable. We were able to reduce our use of plastic water bottles. It was this tiny ripple of a suggestion that brought on a sea change inside Paddle Diva. paddlediva.com
Photography by: Michael Williams