Gina Bradley – aka Paddle Diva – and her so named stand up paddleboard school have become a Hamptons summer staple. For anyone wanting to get into into this popular sport, Paddle Diva offers lessons and guidance for paddlers of all levels. Gina herself has recently jumped into some new waters authoring, Paddle Diva: Ten Guiding Principles to Finding Balance on the Water and in Life, with the foreword written by Gabby Reece and Laird Hamilton.
Broken down into 10 guiding principles and so titled chapters, such as Dig Deep, Enjoy the Ride, and Look Up — the book is not a how-to guide, but a translation of lessons learned on the water that apply to everyday life. Even I, an experienced paddler, had to draw upon those principles on an extremely windy and choppy day last spring with Gina on the Hudson River, where my primary goal was not to take a plunge into those murky waters. Gina and I sat down for a chat about the book post-paddle…
STYLE OF SPORT: When and how did Paddle Diva start?
GINA BRADLEY: It started 10 years ago in the same harbor where the center is now, with some of my girlfriends who I would take out on the water for lessons. One day I turned to them and said, “I keep taking you guys out on my boards from my pickup truck. It’s been really fun, but last week you brought your sister-in-law, and the other week you brought your mother. It’s time to make a business of it”
SOS: You really have become a must-do summer activity in the Hamptons! How did the book come to be?
GB: The book is 10 years in the making. When I started my business in 2009, and taking people out on the water, I was getting such unique perspectives on the sport. I wanted to bring those back to land and share the experiences I was having out there. Every lesson, I would learn something new about teaching, and my teaching would get better and better. I found I was saying the same 10 phrases over and over. They were really 10 life principles and I wanted to fuse the book around them.
SOS: What I love about sports, and the philosophy of this book, is how the experience translates into everyday life. For me it’s running. I take that metaphor of simply putting one foot in front of the other to accomplish any distance or goal. This book really highlights that through these life lessons — 10 guiding principles to finding balance on water and life. What are your top 3?
GB: There are a few I really love. The one I loved for you today was #1 Look Up. In paddleboarding or life, you gotta to look where you want to go. If we spend our lives looking down, we’re never going to enjoy what’s around us.
SOS: I really didn’t want to take swim in the Hudson, and with the conditions today, that seemed a likely scenario. Thankfully I did not! What’s another favorite principle?
GB: #5 Enjoy the Ride. Today we had a challenge with the wind and current, but I really wanted us to have that ah-ha moment.
SOS: I had it back on land… lol!
GB: I have a client who always wants to know exactly where we’re going to go, what our route is going to be. One day I finally turned to her and said, “Don’t worry where we’re going or where we’ve been. I’ll get you home in an hour. Just enjoy the ride with me.” It was then I realized that’s what we need to do every day. If we don’t, we’re not going to have a lot of fun in life.
SOS: That also translates to living in the moment, which is a big part of meditation – something I’ve always gotten from paddleboarding.
GB: The other principle I really love is #3 Dig Deep. I said this to you today — dig that paddle in and pull through. We know this as women and as entrepreneurs. It’s the same with life, giving birth, overcoming an injury — you have to dig deep inside your soul and pull yourself through.
SOS: Is there a takeaway from the book for those who don’t paddle?
GB: I want people who aren’t near the water to know they can still participate in this way of life and way of thinking. That is my goal. These principle apply as much on land as on the water.