Local Paddlers Invite Community to Stand Up for the Ocean

Evelyn O'Doherty and Gina Bradley help Stand Up for the Ocean paddle race
Evelyn O’Doherty and Gina Bradley
Courtesy Evelyn O’Doherty

A mixed crowd of stand-up paddlers are gathering at Havens Beach in Sag Harbor on Sunday, August 15 at 10 a.m. for Stand Up for the Ocean, a paddle race to benefit and promote the fight against climate change through Project Zero.

Accessible to paddlers of all ages and skill levels, including kids, the race will be separated into one-mile, three-mile and six-mile courses so everyone can participate without feeling overwhelmed or intimidated. An awards ceremony will follow, honoring three winners from each course. The beach will also be lively with activities all morning, including food and drink, photo-ops with mermaids and mermen, as well as stand-up paddling (SUP) lessons and SUP yoga classes.

The free SUP lessons with Paddle Diva founder and East Hampton resident Gina Bradley and her crew begin at 11 a.m., while certified yoga and paddleboard instructor Amanda “Min” Bruno hosts her SUP yoga classes for $25 (each limited to 20 people on a first-come, first-served basis) at 10 a.m. and 11 a.m.

Standup paddlers enter the water - like in Stand Up for the Ocean
Standup paddlers enter the waterCourtesy Evelyn O’Doherty

Organized by Project Zero owner and founder Michele Clarke and Standup Journal editor and East Hampton resident Evelyn O’Doherty, with help from Bradley, Stand Up for the Ocean is part of Project Zero’s effort to ramp up their ocean advocacy endeavors and programs as a result of recent global events that have made the need for action clearer and more critical than ever.

O’Doherty and Bradley explain that Clarke reached out to them, two of the most recognizable figures in the local SUP community, with the idea of a paddleboard race to benefit Project Zero. “She really wanted to create some kind of water-based activity event, as a fundraiser for Project Zero, and she loved the idea of doing a stand-up paddle race,” O’Doherty says. “Once she made that decision, somebody recommended both Gina and I to her as a way of moving the whole event forward and keeping it local.”

Stand Up for the Ocean is even more significant this summer because one of the biggest SUP fundraisers of the season, Hamptons Paddle for the Pink, has been canceled for its second consecutive year. “This is a really nice way to fill in that gap,” O’Doherty says, explaining that Paddle for the Pink organizer Maria Baum has taken a step back and is currently looking for someone to take over her role producing the race.

Drone's view of stand-up paddle race
Drone’s view of stand-up paddle raceCourtesy Evelyn O’Doherty

But beyond simply filling a gap, O’Doherty says this race is about camaraderie and the cause—preserving the ocean is vital to the overall health of the planet. “It’s really wonderful. It’s a way of building community, gathering people together and then educating them at the same time about an environmental crisis that we all need to be aware of,” she says, noting that Clarke will also be at the race to share materials and talk about Project Zero.

The exact course has yet to be set for Sunday’s race, but O’Doherty says it will follow a three-mile triangle with a second lap added for the six-mile race. Weather and water conditions that day will determine paddlers’ proximity to shore. The children’s course will likely be a bit shorter than a mile, and the women are making a special effort to get young paddlers on the water.

“We’re deliberately trying to create this race so it is absolutely accessible to everybody,” O’Doherty says. “The idea here is to just have fun and raise some awareness and raise some funds for the ocean, but really it’s about a day of festival on the water,” she continues, explaining that the three-mile course is a recreational race where anybody can participate, while more competitive paddlers can still get some real action on the six-mile course. “You don’t even have to race, you can just paddle the course and have that be your offering, the registration fee, towards Project Zero’s initiative.”

The six-mile Stand Up for the Ocean race could have some fierce competition
The six-mile race could have some fierce competitionCourtesy Evelyn O’Doherty

Entry in the race is $75 for adult paddlers, who must register online by 4 p.m. Friday, August 13, while children cost just $35 and can join onsite. Larger donations are, of course, always welcome and can be inputted on the registration form. “When parents get down there with kids and they see how un-intimidating it is, they’re going to want to sign up for the kids paddle,” Bradley says.

“People hear ‘race’ and they get intimated, but this is also just a day to come out, get on the water, feel the vibe, look at the horizon and get a perspective from the water to the shore,” Bradley continues. “That’s one thing I’m really excited about—sure there will be some real serious competition with the six-mile race, and that’s the exciting part, but the fun will also be in the three-mile and the one-mile, and the kids [races].”

Agreeing, Evelyn adds, “We’re trying to change the perception of racing as being this intense, super-competitive sport, into more of an inclusive, let’s just get together, enjoy each other, have some laughs and do something that’s great for the environment.

Visit weareprojectzero.org/stand-up-for-the-ocean for tickets and info.

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