Two Water People Inspire Each Other

Love of the water united Gina Bradley, who owns Paddle Dive, a stand-up paddleboard business, and jewelry designer Susan Rockefeller, who donates 5 percent of the proceeds of her Deep Dive Collection to Oceana, the largest organization working to protect the oceans.

SusanRockefeller_2014_lindsaymorris-106Paddle twinsGina Bradley, left, and Susan Rockefeller support each other and the environment.

Love of the water united Gina Bradley, who owns Paddle Dive, a stand-up paddleboard business, and jewelry designer Susan Rockefeller, who donates 5 percent of the proceeds of her Deep Dive Collection to Oceana, the largest organization working to protect the oceans.

Before moving to East Hampton, Bradley taught scuba diving in Cozumel and the Cayman Islands. “The best places on the planet to dive,” she says, “but I watched the reefs die and the ocean being polluted.” After the move, Bradley exchanged her dive gear for a paddleboard. “I didn’t love it at first,” she says. “Paddling into the wind, I was sore the next day.” Her love grew as her skills improved, to the point where she turned the sport into a “women-centric” business. As “ladies [were] following her around like ducklings” on the beach, the former sales rep aggressively handed out cards.

Rockefeller came that first year with her own posse in tow, and the two women became friends who continually inspire each other. After one session on the water, Bradley’s practice was to hand out homemade granola and bottled water. As she sipped on the water, Rockefeller told Bradley, “Gina, we’re going to have to work on another way to get people water.” Plastic, and plastic water bottles, are one of Rockefeller’s pet peeves; Bradley helps spread the word by encouraging clients to use less of it. “Susan brings glass straws with her everywhere she goes,” says Bradley, who is never without her reusable water bottle and will offer clients filtered water from a tabletop dispenser in her office on Three Mile Harbor.

From being on the water six hours a day in season, Bradley has noticed fewer horseshoe crabs and eelgrass and more red tides and jellyfish.

Bradley is featured in several scenes of Rockefeller’s short film, Mission of the Mermaids, which mentions that the proliferation of jellyfish is a result of the decline of sea turtles, a natural predator of the jellyfish.

Rockefeller believes the biggest threat to our waterway is nitrogen from agricultural runoff and in some cases old septic tanks that are used on Long Island. “This can lead to imbalances in the water, less oxygen for marine life and more algae blooms,” says Rockefeller. “All this can lead to less biodiversity and adversely affect tourism.”

Thankfully, the East End bays have not gotten to that point. “Our bays are particularly clean, by the way,” says Bradley. East End bays have a beauty and old romantic energy that appeals to Rockefeller, who summered in East Hampton as a child. “I love the quality of the light on the water, the activity of boats coming in and out and how people are still clamming here.” she says.

In addition to her work with Oceana, Rockefeller sits on the boards of Stone Barns and the South Fork Natural History Museum in Bridgehampton, where she owns an 18th-century farmhouse.

Urged on by Rockefeller, Bradley, a member of Quail Hill Farm and supporter of the Seedlings Project at the Springs School, joined the board of SOFO, a place both women and their children cherish, as a learning tool and inspiration for their lives.

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Kelly Ann Smith lives in East Hampton between Gardiner's Bay and Accabonac Harbor. She's been writing about the East End since 1995. Her weekly column, "A View from Bonac," can be found in the East Hampton Press.