A lifelong water sports enthusiast, Gina Bradley took to paddle boarding the moment she set foot on her first board. Not only did it offer a fresh perspective on her beloved East End, it also provided a remarkable physical workout. In no time, she had her friends joining her on her daily jaunts. And soon after that, Paddle Diva—a stand up paddling board school for women—was born. In addition to teaching,Bradley is also an environmental activist. She shares some of her philosophy with us below. Find out more at www.paddlediva.com
Can you explain how you got interested in paddle boarding?
I am a waterwoman and I have lived most of my life on or near the water. All the sports I do involve the water: surfing, sailing, SCUBA are just a few. When my husband had one of the first stand up paddle (SUP) boards in 2008, I knew, from the moment I stepped on it, this was a sport that was going to take off! I would head out to the bays and explore at first alone, then as we accumulated more boards, I’d start to take my girlfriends out with me. In 2009 the idea for Paddle Diva was hatched, as I watched my friends open their minds and paddle themselves into great shape with me leading the charge!
Can you talk about your philosophy of empowering women with exercise, diet, and being connected to the water?
I have a belief, when it comes to working out, that if you do what you love, the fitness will follow! Showing women that they can take control of their choices when it comes to exercise and food is part of that equation. When you are happy in a physical pursuit, your body tends to want to eat foods that help fuel you to excel in whatever it is you are doing! I love teaching women to listen to their bodies, give into a craving occasionally but to eat to live the healthiest, best life possible! The water component of SUP is what attracted me most to the sport. Water for me is a metaphor for just about everything we have in life. We are born from water and when we can bring ourselves back to the liquid environment and to interact with it, understand it and embrace it we feel a sense of connection to the planet and ourselves! We can then use this connection to help guide us in our daily choices towards heath, vitality and wellness.
What motivates you to be a steward of land and sea on Long Island?
I have spent decades skimming the water’s surface on sailboards and surfboards, and hours under the water as a SCUBA instructor and dive enthusiast. I have developed a completely unique perspective. One that is a combination of dedication, awe and concern. We are all awed by the oceans when we watch a surfer or see a whale jump meters above the surface; this awe is a constant for me as it never ceases to amaze me what wonderful things happen around the water. Whether fresh, brackish or salt water, we are nestled within intricate ecosystems that rely on our consideration to survive. We hold the keys to the future of the planet–and from microorganisms to mammals we are its protector.
Can you talk about your retreats?
Paddle Diva hosts private retreats that are centered around interacting with natural surroundings, eating well, and feeling good about oneself. We fill our days with eating foods that are locally sourced and cooked with care, we believe that the day’s journey begins and ends with healthy eating. We choose hours when the sun is low to spend time on a stand up paddle board gliding over the waters and improving our techniques.
What is your vision for Paddle Diva?
To allow anyone who interacts with the brand to have a body and a mind experience that is a transformation! We want to open up our clients’ minds and bodies to unleash the untapped potential that lives with in all us.
What is the most pressing environmental issue on East End?
Right now we are facing a time of nitrogen overload in our waters, resulting in the blooming of potentially toxic blue-green algae. This algae when ingested by humans can cause severe gastrointestinal illness, and for animals it is deadly. This is an extremely concerning problem because it then effects the shellfish and other sea animals that inhabit the bays making them inedible and causing closures for both pleasure and commercial uses of the waters. Cleaning up the waters of the bay is one of my most important issues that I feel needs to be addressed on an individual level. We have allowed for failing septic systems situated too close to the waters and overuse of chemicals that we use on our lawns and plants to flow into the waters with every rain event.
How do you work to solve these issues?
Through programs like the Cornell Cooperative Extension Marina Program with whom we can work to restore marine habitat, enhance local shellfish populations, and use applied research to conduct pilot projects focused on nitrogen reducing technologies. They have a Back to the Bays Initiative, that Paddle Diva is closely involved with that encourages the public to get informed, get involved, and play an important role in the stewardship of our marine resources.
Can you describe your food/diet philosophy?
I eat to live, it’s that simple. I find it so important to eat only healthy foods that actually fuel your body for what you need it to do. I do not believe in juicing or dramatically changing your diet for a period of time, as I have seen that slow change is better than anything abrupt. I believe that exercise, even ten minutes a day, is better than nothing and I encourage everyone to do something, no matter how insignificant it may seem, every day and then build on that. Framing eating around being fit is part of the magic. Whatever we put in our bodies we truly get out of them!
How can people who love the East End be stewards of the land and sea?
The first thing we can do is to make a conscious effort to get on a human generated vessel: a stand up paddle board, a surf board, a canoe or kayak. In the silence of the glide, we need to gain a new perspective from the water looking to the land. This new view that is acquired while under our own power, places us as close as possible to being the very beings we have to protect. Until we as a community understand that there are miles and miles of waters that need to be fought for, we will continue to pollute, many of us unknowingly, by our everyday life choices!
Where do you go for inspiration?
To the sea…..
Do you have a favorite mentor?
Each and every client is a mentor. I learn and am inspired by my clients daily. And can’t wait to interact with more as I extend my reach beyond the East End of Long Island!
How about a favorite restaurant on East End?
My favorite place to eat on the East End is any restaurant that makes the effort to locally sourced foods, also knows about the ‘slow food’ movement. The c/o Maidstone is by far my favorite place to relax and enjoy food that I know has been carefully selected and prepared.