It was a cold day in April when Gina Bradley of Paddle Diva, who had spent the winter looking in vain for a new home for her paddleboard and kayak rental and lesson business, called Karen Vanderveer of the Three Mile Marina.
“My lease had run out and wasn’t renewed — the new owners had a different vision, which was fine,” said the spirited Bradley, during a recent tour of the busy sailboat and powerboat marina off Boat Yard Lane, where 50 paddleboards, four kayaks, and a small blue rented Paddle Diva shipping container can now be found a few yards from a little-used launching ramp.
Bradley said she hadn’t been bothered by the 10 or so turndowns before she called Vanderveer, whose father, Donald, had built the marina at the head of Three Mile Harbor in the early 1960s. The marina business here had been booming for three years during the Covid pandemic, “and they probably figured they didn’t need me,” she said of the other marinas. “Luckily, Karen said yes, and here we are! I feel so lucky. This is the perfect place — we’re blessed. . . . The way I see it, if I do well, the marina will do well, and vice versa. We’ll grow together.”
Bradley said she couldn’t imagine a better way to introduce visitors to East Hampton’s “most precious resource” than through stand-up paddleboarding, and no sooner had she said this than four day trippers from Brooklyn materialized, having returned from exploring inlets and coves at the harbor’s lower end with one of Paddle Diva’s instructors, Maddie Anderson.
If these first-timers could find their way to Three Mile Marina without any trouble, then perhaps she shouldn’t worry about her clientele following her to her new location. “It might take them five minutes longer, but they’ll find us,” said Bradley, who has left Paddle Diva’s day-to-day operations in the hands of Amy Worthington.
After the Brooklynites, John Chen, Alatea Lin, Judy Chen, and Aina Chen, had taken their leave, headed east to have lunch at the Lobster Roll — a.k.a. Lunch, at Bradley’s suggestion, and to visit the Montauk Lighthouse, which she also recommended, the Paddle Diva said, with satisfaction, “They’re happy. They were welcomed, they had an authentic, positive experience with people who are knowledgeable in a bucolic setting.”
At the end of a floating dock was the Mary Lloyd, a restored 1939 Elco cabin cruiser that Scott Faulkner offers for charter. There’s an osprey nest atop a pole nearby and a rusty crane through which vines are growing. Bradley said the marina’s manager, Joe Damiani, would fix it up.
“No, no,” Damiani said, “that’s going to be a monument to Don Vanderveer, who built this place with his own hands.”
“It’s iconic, like the gas pumps at the General Store,” said Bradley, adding that the constant activity at the marina was invigorating. “We didn’t have this kind of entertainment at Shagwong,” she said as Forbes Riva and his son, Dane, worked with a tractor nearby.
As for her paddleboarding business, “it’s become generational,” Bradley said. “I’ve instructed the parents of some of my instructors and I’ve instructed some of my instructors too.”
One of her paddleboarding protégées, Kirstin Boncher, who had come down to take some photographs, said of the sport, “It’s an activity that people of all ages can do on the water that is safe, that uses all the muscles of your body, and that has no impact on the environment.”
Moreover, she said, “you’re in such intimate contact with nature –- you can see the bottom, you can watch striped bass dart under your board . . . and every day the conditions are different.”
It had taken longer than Bradley had expected — two months, to be exact — to set things up, “to recreate the magic,” in her new spot.
“But, yes,” she said, with a smile, in parting, “you can say that Paddle Diva is open.”
And not only is Bradley open at the Three Mile Marina, but Paddle Diva will also partner with the Ram’s Head Inn, at the edge of Coecles Harbor on Shelter Island, to host retreats Sundays through Tuesdays and adventure paddles on Sundays.