I like to say I have the coolest job in Three Village, but once in a while, I meet someone who makes a really good case to claim that title for himself or herself. In this case, it's Tommy Minnigan who might very well have the coolest job in Three Village, and it's an opportunity he created for himself.
Most summer days you can find him hanging out on the outskirts of the bathing area at West Meadow Beach. An unassuming sign attached to the back of his beach chair advertises his brand-new business, , in which he rents paddleboards and teaches people how to use them to stand up and glide across the water.
"It’s a fun chance for people to be out on the beach and to enjoy it from a different perspective," said Tommy, a 1996 graduate of Ward Melville High School who is now a teacher in a different school district. "When I do it I’m away from my cellphone and from my computer and all those distractions. I’m really just having fun. We all just love to have fun, and that’s what it is."
With roots in Hawaiian culture, stand-up paddleboarding is enjoying a wave of popularity not just in coastal regions, but in places where people flock to lakes and rivers for enjoyment too. The boards resemble surfboards but the sport itself is a little more tame than surfing. An hour rental, with lesson included, runs $40; it's $100 for three hours. The paddleboards themselves run anywhere from $800 for a basic beginner's board to $1,500 for a high-end board that might be a little narrower or hard-built for more speed. Tommy has acquired his own board plus four for his business from in Westhampton Beach.
Last week, he invited me out to West Meadow Beach to try it out. Spend an hour of my workday trying out a newly popular water sport at the beach on a gorgeous afternoon? OK, twist my arm.
The lesson began on dry land first, as Tommy explained how to hold the paddle and how to use it. I first learned to kneel on the board before attempting the proper technique to stand up on it. In no time, I was out on the water not far behind him.
He's right about that whole "no distractions" thing: when I was out there gliding on top of the water, I wasn't focused on my cell phone, my work email, or anything else, really. I was too focused on not losing my balance and falling off my board.
We paddled a good distance away from the shore, set to a soundtrack of joyful noise from the children playing in the water. But as we went, we noticed bits of trash floating in the water. I pulled up alongside an empty juice box and used my paddle to flip it up onto the board. Tommy retrieved what looked like the top to a styrofoam cooler.
I did finally lose my balance at one point, splashing into the warm July waters after about half an hour of gliding around. What a workout! Can you keep a secret? I wasn't really trying that hard to keep my balance at that point.
Tommy said he first tried the sport while on vacation in Puerto Rico and fell in love with it. "When I went to do it out here, there were no places for people to do it for the first time," he said. "So that was really my goal in starting this. Bring it to the people on the north shore."
Getting the lesson in SUP – as it's frequently called on the Internet – has inspired me. Once I master this, maybe I'll even head over to Atlantic Bay in Five Towns to try , which combines stand-up paddle boarding with the practice of yoga. Or maybe it will give me the courage to actually head down to Long Beach or Montauk and learn how to surf at some point.
I assured Tommy I would be back again soon, next time as a customer rather than an editor. Just need to get a little work done for now.
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