Paddling Like A Diva

This article first appeared in The Independent Newspaper. Read more about #EverythingEastEnd here


In some cases, being called a diva might seem insulting but, here on the East End, Diva (uppercase ‘D’) is being redefined to mean empowerment.

Gina Bradley is a female powerhouse — entrepreneur, mother, environmental advocate, world traveler, and now author. Her stand-up paddleboarding company, Paddle Diva, launched in 2009, celebrates a decade of success with a new published work “Paddle Diva: Ten Guiding Principles to Finding Balance on the Water and in Life.”

It may be Bradley’s debut in the publishing world, but the idea has been floating around ever since the days of running her business from a Motorola flip phone and a single, nameless pickup truck. Published by Post Hill Press and distributed by Simon & Schuster, the coffee table book is as much a visual journey as a written one.

Prior to the Instagrammable stories of today, she had a “visual idea of trying to draw people in,” a way to give the public a glimpse inside her daily life on the water. On page after page of professionally shot images from a compilation of photographers, Bradley’s personal life is intertwined with the community she’s built, sprinkled with approximately 1500 words.

“What the book is essentially about is combining my enthusiasm and passion for the sport, then pulling in the environmental piece that has been so motivational for me, using my business to help protect the environment. And then the whole wellness aspect that comes along with paddleboarding,” Bradley explained. Today, the Diva empire has grown in such popularity that, beyond locations in East Hampton, Florida, the Caribbean, and Bermuda, her truck dons the Paddle Diva logo, a sure sign of warmer weather and a stronger community.

A kind of Lara Croft of the paddling world — always on an adventure, full of grace — Bradley, a former professional windsurfer, surfer, and PADI-certified scuba instructor, is an individual unlike any another. Perhaps that’s what makes the book so readable: It’s authentic to who she is and in her own voice. Her personal life is interwoven into the overall guiding storyline. “I wanted to create something super inspiring. If you don’t get a chance to meet me, this book will bring you into my world. People who do know me are going to read it and think ‘Oh my God. This sounds like Gina.’”

Her guiding principles to life and water are developed around her own mental and physical framework, creating a balance on and off the board. The intro details the backstory and process of what Paddle Diva, as a company, actually is, making it a great read for entrepreneurs who aren’t ready to jump in the water just yet when it comes to starting their own business. With a passion for what she’s created, Bradley provides insightful, encouraging words. Professional volleyball player, Gabby Reece and husband, big wave surfer, Laird Hamilton present a foreword attesting to Bradley’s innate ability to gather a community based on the water. (Bradley accredits Hamilton for being the vessel of stand up paddleboarding’s popularity).

Chapter 1, “Look Up,” opens to the setting of Three Mile Harbor in East Hampton, where her center is located. “Look up” is more than a paddling tip but a life tip, to focus on a still point and the rest will follow. The metaphor is a spiritual guideline to daily life. The following titles focus on the principles she’s been preaching for years: Believe in Your Strength, Dig Deep, Focus on Your Core, Enjoy the Ride, Be Comfortable with Yourself, Move Outside Your Comfort Zone, Positivity Is Contagious, Be Open to the Outcome, and Laugh Every Day, Smile Every Hour. Every title an insightful message.

Each chapter tells a story, including client stories and how Bradley instructed people to overcome their adversities. The serene beauty of this book will appeal to both men and women. A sidebar reads “How a Paddle Dude Can Become a Paddle Diva,” by Tim Wood, certified SUP instructor. “Women can be dudes, and men can be Divas. For a dude, paddle boarding is just a leisure activity. But for a Diva, paddle boarding is a high-intensity workout.” Other notable sidebars include that from Christina Cuomo, Elisabeth Halfpapp, Jennifer Ford, and Amy Worthington, with an afterword by Susan Rockefeller.

The core of it all is Bradley’s family, as her husband, Scott, came up with the company name. The two have a 12-year-old son and 15-year-old daughter, which are mentioned in the book. “I was able to bring in the notion of ‘when the world is healthy, you are healthy.’ And I bring in my children. My kids have been very supportive of what I’m doing and are proud of what I’ve done as a working mom to stay very fresh and to be different than most parents.” Bradley lightheartedly detailed picking up her daughter from school in the Paddle Diva truck, as friends clamored around.

Daily Fitness: Paddle Like a Diva

(This article first appeared in the July 12, 2017 issue of The Independent Newspaper)


It’s noon on a windy, sunless Saturday as I arrive at Shagwong Marina in Springs to meet the Paddle Diva team. After receiving an email that morning that read “We never cancel,” I should have been tipped off that I’d be in for a rough introduction to paddle boarding. It was time for SUP FUN: Tour and Fitness! Bathing suit on and sized up with my paddle and board (see the connection there?), after a brief tutorial I was aquatic where it all started.

“The inspiration for Paddle Diva came in this harbor,” Gina Bradley, founder of Paddle Diva explained. “My husband [Scott Bradley] and I had the first two paddleboards ever made on Long Island and I would load those big, huge heavy things in the back of my girl friends’ pick-up truck. I sort of taught myself and taught my friends how to paddle, because I was always the lead.”

Paddling into the wind, to avoid being taken adrift, I kept my legs steady, core tight, and arms in a continuous motion with the paddle deep in the water. It was all a rhythm. Despite the adversity of conditions I was relaxed through the help of my fellow “divas.”

Diva is the name of the board used and the name for Bradley’s company. Back in 2009 it started with only two boards while teaming up with a board maker to manufacture “divas” — those small enough for women.

During a meal at Babette’s in East Hampton, “I was like, ‘I’m going to start a business,’ and Scott was chuckling at me. ‘Women don’t belong on those boards. Those are ocean boards.’ Nobody knew how this sport was going to bang out,” remembered Bradley. But she knew better, realizing the potential for the female enthusiast if only properly built and marketed.

Initially, boards were up to 11-12 feet and would take three persons to pick it up. Bradley, a true pioneer in the sport of stand-up paddle boarding, envisioned a handle for hassle-free carry, in addition to smaller dimensions. While men typically do well on a board 11’6 – 12 feet, 32 inches wide, most women perform best on a 10’6 board between 28 to 30 inches wide.

But what’s a business without a catchy name? Scott Bradley had the answer.

“He said, ‘Why don’t you just call it Paddle Diva because with you everything is diva, parking and getting a diva table.'” Bradley admitted,

“You’re right. I live for diva parking, it’s the best parking around,” pointing to the first spot in the parking lot where her pick-up truck was.

While the activity is a great way to keep fit, it’s also an appreciation for a certain lifestyle. Bradley has a second year-round brick and mortar location for her company in Rincon, the famed tropical surfers’ paradise in Puerto Rico. Since 1998 the Bradley family — Gina, Scott and their two children — has vacationed there, and built a home. Wanting others to experience the same beauty she’s soaked in for years, the company offers retreats to the area. As an escape from the cold, the retreats provide more than yoga or SUP lessons. Guests have the option to participate in as much or as little as desired with other activities such as waterfall adventures, exploring the island, and more.

“This sport is constantly evolving and people are getting more and more skills,” Bradley explained. “In my core, I want people to like it, I want them to have the most seamless experience and love the sport,” she admitted. “[I plan for] no accidents because I’ve done them all so I know what they all are.”

Locally, Paddle Diva rents out boards at $50/hour with $10 each additional hour to those who are skilled enough and are familiar with the water, even offering offsite rentals for an extra $10 pickup and delivery charge. Want to go all out? Rent for an entire day, from 9 AM to 6 PM. Aside from their East Hampton location, Paddle Diva paddles out of Gurney’s and The Surf Lodge in Montauk.

As I finished my lesson, after a brief fall in while attempting to Instagram (a product of my generation, but I’ll blame it on the wind), I couldn’t wait to return and try again. But with all the other SUP companies out there it’s a testament to Bradley’s expertise that she stays afloat.

Without worry, Bradley confidently expressed, “I love it [the competition]. It makes me put my head down and work harder, work smarter and innovate and get ahead of it. So that people are copying you versus getting ahead of you. Every day I wake up, it’s kind of corny, and I pretty much say ‘It’s a brand new day.’ It’s the only thing you get, guaranteed, new and shiny and bright every day, every time you open your eyes…What’s going to happen?”

Perhaps the policy of “We never cancel” goes beyond just her company. A special thank you to my official instructor, Steve Tavolilla, for unleashing my inner Diva!


Paddle Diva is located at 219 Three Mile Harbor HC Road, at Shagwong Marina. For more information visit or call 631-329-2999.