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A paddle and a picnic in Sagaponack

Dinner is served on Sagg Main Beach after

Dinner is served on Sagg Main Beach after a one mile paddle across Sagg Pond in Sagaponack to the ocean beach. A BBQ was set up on the beach for the 67 participants. (July 13, 2011) Photo Credit: Randee Daddona

After spending a morning hitting golf balls, David Cruickshank, 70, of Southampton, is ready to paddle a kayak for his dinner.

With his wife, Kathie, 68, Cruickshank has been waiting his turn to launch his kayak from a quiet Hamptons roadside littered with the slender one- or two-seat boats. The Southampton couple will be joining about 65 other people on a paddle across Sagg Pond to secluded Sagg Main Beach. He's looking forward to this un-Hamptons change of pace.

"It's very pleasant. It's a nice break," Cruickshank says of this evening's picnic on the beach, bonfire under the stars and return trip by moonlight.


THE QUIET HAMPTONS

If you want to rough it a bit in the Hamptons, and delve into the natural world beyond the busy downtowns, the Group for the East End can be your guide. The first of two summer kayak and barbecue trips, this exploration of the natural world has a dual purpose, says Kate Fullam, director of community outreach for the Southold-based organization. The idea, she says, is to get people out into the natural environment so they will develop a connection to protect it.

And, because it's held outdoors, the weather can intervene, as it did on this occasion.


SHOVING OFF

If you like to be pampered, this adventure isn't for you. Sure, the volunteers are cordial and happy to give your kayak a push as you shove off. But you will need to put your arms and back into it -- and you may be splashed with pond water as you paddle.

However, if you enjoy togetherness in the outdoors, like Liz Manocha of Water Mill and Manhattan, and her 11-year-old son, Baylen, you'll be in your element.

"This is why we come out here," Manocha says before she and Baylen take off in their kayak.

It's about a 20-minute paddle, depending on your skills. On the opposite shore, kayaks are hauled onto dry land and unloaded. The picnic takes place a few steps up the beach, a bright white strip of sand between the pond and the Atlantic.


PICNIC ON THE SAND

Under a bright blue sky, the picnickers spread out on the beach. Manocha relaxes on a blanket. Baylen cavorts nearby with other kids.

"Kayaking wasn't exhausting enough, now he's playing football," Manocha say, smiling.

Down the beach, the Cruickshanks sit in lawn chairs a few yards from the crashing surf.

"We're really lucky to be out here," Kathie says as her husband pours white wine into cups.

The food is prepared by volunteers from the Group for the East End: fresh cooked corn from a local farm, moist hunks of barbecued fluke, and hot dogs (choice of meat or vegetarian). It's all set out on a makeshift buffet table in the middle of the beach.

Shortly after dinner, the weather changes. Dark clouds appear on the horizon and the wind rises, whipping sand onto exposed skin. A Group for the East End volunteer advises the kayakers to seek cover at a nearby beach pavilion, then take advantage of a car ride back to their autos.

Despite the cancellation of the bonfire and moonlight kayak ride, some are looking on the bright side.

As he walks to his car, David Cruickshank says of the sudden storm and the flight to shelter: "We all agreed that it sort of added to the fun."

SAGG POND PADDLE & BBQ

WHEN | WHERE 5-11 p.m. Sept. 11, Sagg Pond, Sagaponack. Reservations required.

INFO 631-765-6450, eastendenvironment.org

ADMISSION $30 ($20 younger than 12), plus $30 for single kayak rental or $50 for double kayak. Bring your own drinks, blanket or chair.

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