A long, lean woman stands upright on a wide surfboard, her oar-like paddle cutting through the smooth water of Gardiners Bay in East Hampton. The people on shore just watch, intrigued, wondering what she's doing. The answer? A hip "new" sport on Long Island, getting a monster workout and taking in the scenery - all without getting her big toe wet.
Stand-up paddling originated in Hawaii in the 1960s, but has only taken hold around Long Island within the past few years as local surf instructors began offering lessons and stocking the hybrid paddleboards for rental.
Like surfing, it's a full-body workout that demands both balance and strength. But there's a calmer side to paddleboarding, too.
"It's incredibly diverse," says Gina Bradley, 43, of East Hampton, who founded Paddle Diva in 2007 in hopes of making the sport more accessible to those intimidated by regular surfing.
The advantage, Bradley explains, is that stand up paddlers can choose their own experience, opting either for a "tour" (going from point A to point B, like a kayaker) or hitting the ocean for the adrenaline rush of riding along the surf.
ON THE WATER
Bradley's guided morning tours, geared toward beginners, take paddlers on leisurely trips with sweeping views of the coastline and waterfront homes. Birds, fish and other wildlife are often spotted.
After an hour on even the smoothest waters, regular paddlers say you'll be noticing muscles you didn't even know you had as your body subtly works to stay balanced.
"It's my freedom," says Jennifer Ford, 44, a regular on Bradley's guided tours who lives in Amagansett and Manhattan. The busy mother of two (including one with autism) says she's come to crave her time on the water. "Paddling gives me serenity, freedom, and calm."
For frequent paddler Jessica Bellofatto of Sag Harbor, the appeal lies in the unusual perspective. "Being out on the water from that vantage point of standing up is so powerful," says Bellofatto, 37.
As challenging as it can be, stand-up paddling is accessible to people of various ages and sizes. There aren't many rules to think about, Bradley says, and once you're up on the board, you're pretty much there.
Stand-up paddleboards are designed much like surfboards, only wider (29 inches) and lighter (18 to 19 pounds). The differences not only make them easier to transport and more buoyant, but the extra width helps the rider balance.
Paddle Diva: 516-383-2296, paddlediva.com
When: Guided tours for beginners 9:30-11 a.m. Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays at various Hamptons locations. Private tours and lessons by appointment.
$60 tours (includes equipment); $150 private two-hour lesson (Gina Bradley says newbies will likely need at least one lesson before joining a group).
More places to try stand-up paddling:
Stand-up paddling is growing, with more water sport outfitters starting to offer lessons, occasional tours and rentals. Among them:
Rates: $35 for one-hour paddleboard rental; $100 for 60-minute lesson.
Rates: $100 per day rental; $150 for 90-minute lesson
Offers a paddleboarding option on some of its guided group kayak and canoe tours (from $55).