Paddle for the bays on Shelter Island

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.

Described by organizers as one of the East Coast’s premier competitions for elite, intermediate and novice paddlers, the race takes off from Wades Beach for a 19.5-mile circumnavigation of Shelter Island on Saturday, September 10, starting at 8:30 a.m. New this year is a 9-mile race course, a 3-mile untimed, recreational course, and a beach party from 12:30 to 3:30 p.m., said lead organizer Billy Baldwin, in a recent phone interview.

The race honors Mr. Baldwin’s brother, Ted, who died at age 48 in 2011. The Baldwins summered as children at North Sea.

“My brother did everything in the water that you can do,” Mr. Baldwin said. “My whole philosophy in bringing this thing together is to see if we can save theses waters that we grew up in.”

Proceeds from the race will be directed to the CCE’s “Back to the Bays” initiative, and will contribute to habitat and shellfish restoration work being conducted by CCE and the paddle community, said Kimberly Barbour, a CCE outreach coordinator. Racers will be given a bag of seed clams — 10,000 in all — to spread in designated planting sites, she said.

Representatives of the CCE’s habitat restoration program will also be on hand to teach people how to assemble eel grass planting units used for restoring marine meadows, she said.

Entry fees are $125 for racers in the 19.5- and 9-mile courses, and $90 for the recreational paddle. Racers get a rash guard, medal, ticket to the beach party and a swag bag of goodies. Recreational participants get a rash guard, ticket to the beach party and swag bag. For non-paddling guests, tickets to the beach party, sold in advance only, are $75 per person. A small fee for supplies will be charged for a kid-friendly fish printing workshop.

Paddlers of all ages are welcome, but those 18 and under require a consent form.

To learn more, register for the race or make a donation to the Cornell marine program, visit

The Race Committee is seeking volunteers, some to help out with advance work and others to assist with the setup and break down on the day of the race. Volunteers should call Don D’Amato at (631) 749-2092 and leave a message.

For more information about CCE’s Back to the Bays Initiative, contact Ms. Barbour at (631) 461-5294 or