(This article first appeared in the September 6, 2017 issue of The Independent Newspaper)
It’s a Tuesday afternoon as I arrive at a small beach along the Peconic River. Chris Dowling, owner of One Love Beach, an outdoor and lifestyle boutique located at 211 Main Street in Greenport, stands ready to greet me as I mentally geared up for a group paddle session. Stepping out of my car, the wind almost knocks me over and, almost in tandem, Dowling and I shake our heads. Today was not a day for me (after all, the first and last time I paddled was with the Paddle Diva crew — I needed experience before taking on these gusts). The wind couldn’t stop a good conversation though. Chris and wife are local business owners and, like most businesses on the North Fork, are tightly woven into their community.
When did you open up your shop with your wife, Blake?
We opened up the shop in June of 2013. Our jobs had us traveling a lot and we had a young child that we were constantly leaving behind. We were searching for a business idea and suddenly a fantastic space opened up and we decided to bring our lifestyle to Greenport.
Paddleboarding is considered a seasonal sport. When do you stop and when are your busiest months?
We don’t stop unless we get locked in due to ice. We paddle year-round; we change from board shorts and bikinis to wetsuits and drysuits. July and August are when we have the biggest crowds exceeding 20 paddlers on our weekly meetups.
What does your shop sell? What makes it unique?
We are kind of a boutique with a paddle boarding problem! We offer over 40 varieties of paddle boards including prone, yoga, fishing, and racing boards. That is all upstairs in the boardroom. Downstairs we have men’s, women’s, and children’s apparel, sunglasses, unique jewelry, ukuleles, Yeti coolers and drink ware, and longboards. We try to mix it up a bit with unique gifts, recycled, and ethically-sourced products. There is always something new and different showing up!
Tell me about Tuesday paddles. For those who don’t almost get the wind knocked out of them.
I grew up sailing and competing in local and distance races. I always like how most yacht clubs will have a midweek sailing night to encourage people to get on their boats one evening a week. I took that model and started promoting a weekly meetup where people could show up with their boards, meet other like-minded individuals, and paddle in places they never thought to paddle before. It started with two or three of us and grew to getting over 20 people in the summer months. We switch over to Saturday morning in the winter when we lose daylight in the evenings. We try to keep it up all winter!
[Tuesday paddles are considered a community event, free to those joining with their own board. Those needing a board can buy or rent from One Love Beach. Paddles are typically followed by socializing with drinks and food at First and South]
Why do you love to paddle, what makes it your passion?
There are so many reasons why I love paddling. On the recreational side, I love the accessibility of it — the feeling of being free, away from life issues, away from the phone. Once you paddle away from the beach all of those stresses are behind you. On the racing side there are the challenges both physically and emotionally, the camaraderie, the inclusiveness. There is nothing better than driving 14 hours and showing up at a starting line with the friendliest competitors that cheer you on while you are racing against them.
Tell us your life/company motto?
Get outside! That can be read many ways. Some read it as get off the couch and do something, others as get outside of your comfort zone. Either way, if we can motivate you to do something great, we are psyched!
By this time Alexa Suess, local Greenport artisan and silversmith, arrived with her One Love board ready to paddle and break in the new gloves she’s using for upcoming competitions. Suess has been coming most Tuesdays for three years and was ready to take on the weather ahead. As the group geared to take off I returned to my car, dry, but looking forward to a fall foliage paddle.
You can learn more about One Love Beach and the One Love paddle crew at http://www.onelovebeach.com or call them at 631-333-2064.