09/03/16 6:03am
A scene from last year's Great Peconic Race off Wades Beach. (Credit: Beverlea Walz)

A scene from last year’s Great Peconic Race off Wades Beach. (Credit: Beverlea Walz)

Want to paddle all the way around Shelter Island to raise money to restore eel grass beds critical to the health of our waters?

Or would you rather just help plant the eel grass?

Whatever your preference, the third annual Great Peconic Race offers a variety of ways to participate in a fun event that benefits marine programs of the Cornell Cooperative Extension (CCE) of Suffolk County. (more…)

09/21/15 2:00pm
PHOTOS BY BEVERLEA WALZ Ready for the race, early Sunday morning.

PHOTOS BY BEVERLEA WALZ Ready for the race, early Sunday morning.

The second annual running of the Great Peconic Race Sunday , a 19.5 mile circumnavigation of Shelter Island, was a resounding success, with great competition and camaraderie. Wades Beach, where the race began and ended, was turned into a late summer all-day festival.

Below, some images of the great day from Shelter Island Reporter staff photographer Beverlea Walz. (more…)

09/17/15 6:00am
Taylor Resnick won the men's paddleboard division of the inaugural running of the Great Peconic Race in 2014 (Credit: REPORTER FILE PHOTO)

Taylor Resnick won the men’s paddleboard division in the inaugural running of the Great Peconic Race in 2014  (Credit: REPORTER FILE PHOTO)

What do Shelter Island, Cape Ann, Massachusetts and Camden, South Carolina have in common?

All three are places where saltwater is as much a part of the community as terra firma, and each hosts the premier events in stand up paddleboard racing.

The Blackburn Challenge is a 20-mile open water circumnavigation of Cape Ann in Northern Massachusetts, and down south in Camden, the Carolina cup attracts large crowds to watch the elite of the sport in action.

The newest entry into this exclusive club is the Great Peconic Race (GPR), a 19-mile circumnavigation of the Island set to launch its second running this Sunday, September 20.

At the inaugural event last year, 80 entrants competed. This year, as of Monday, there were already 111 registered to be on the course around the Island, with 33 of them women. With days to go and many racers expected to register over the weekend, the GPR is attracting nationwide attention.

Like last year’s successful event, the GPR won’t just feature the beautiful sport of paddle boarding — easy to witness from any shore around the Island Sunday — where the athletes stand straight up on what looks like a surfboard and power along with rowing strokes, but will also feature kayaks and surf skis. The latter are long, lightweight vessels with the athletes sitting high above the water line, controlling rudders with their feet.

Billy Baldwin, the GPR’s founder, said of the surf skiers, “These guys rip. They’re like windmills.”

Also eligible for the race will be outrigger canoes, prone paddleboards (paddling with hands) and open sea rowing shells. There’s a short course and relay events set for Sunday, as well.

Sponsors of the race — which include national vessel brands — will hand out more than $6,000 in prize money. Proceeds from the event will go to the Peconic Baykeeper.

The day won’t just be about pro racers and amateurs churning around the Island for cash, fun and meeting challenges. There will be food and drink at Wades Beach where the race kicks off and ends, board and vessel manufacturers reps on hand for people to take some test drives, and fun events for kids.

KIKI BOUCHER ILLUSTRATION

Open water paddle racing is beginning to hit its stride in part due to the fitness explosion with more and more people taking to the water for exercise. Americans spent about $130 million on kayaks alone last year, according to industry sources.

There’s a subtitle to the race — “A Paddle for Ted” — honoring Mr. Baldwin’s brother, who died five years ago. Mr. Baldwin, who grew up in North Sea and now lives in Sag Harbor, recalled how he and his younger brother “lived on the water” when they were young.

The goals of the race are the same as last year, he said, to foster competition and give a great show to Islanders of skill, endurance and speed. But the race directors also want to focus on the environment, he added, the fragile nature of the Island’s bays and harbors and the essential work the Peconic Baykeeper is pursuing.

“I was over at my mom’s house in North Sea the other night and we went for a midnight paddle,” Mr. Baldwin said.

They shone a flashlight down into the water, and it brought back memories of “going out for eels at night when we were kids, and seeing all the critters in the water. We have to stop polluting these beautiful waters.”

The Great Peconic Race begins and ends at Wades Beach on Shelter Island.

Sign in starts at 7 a.m. and the race will commence at 8:15 a.m.

For more information please visit greatpeconicrace.com