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.

North Fork Candles Get Lit

This article first appeared in the January 31, 2018  issue of The Independent Newspaper


Sip the wine, savor the local produce, and inhale the signature scents of the North Fork by candlelight. More than any other of the senses, our olfactory senses are the strongest at triggering emotions and memories.

Suddenly a candle is more than a glowing flame but an ignition of positivity. Three local companies are taking the beauty around them and turning it into a piece of home for everyone.

Baylily Candles, located in Southold, launched in the fall of 2017 as a family endeavor. It’s owned by Michelle J. Warde and her husband, Scott Warde, with their two-year-old daughter Lily inspiring the name.

“She is the greatest gift that I have ever been given. She reminds me every day to never give up on my dreams and to always ‘Stop and smell the candles,'” Michele expressed.

“I love the comfort of home and I cherish all of the special memories that I have created with my family and friends. The North Fork of Long Island is home to me and is such a beautiful place. The beauty is what inspires our candles.”

All of their candles are hand poured, made from all natural soy wax, and take about a day to make in a 13-ounce recycled glass jar before being packaged in an eco-friendly linen bag. Merlot flavor, which smells good enough to drink, is one of their best sellers. Custom labels are in store for local vineyards and private events. Other aromatic scents include Pinot Grigio, Pumpkin Souffle, and Cranberry Jam.

Visit their Facebook page at BaylilyCandles, or email to learn more.

Wick & Wine Candle Company, located in Southold as well, is another example of what happens when you mix wine country with entrepreneurship. Owner Jon Demo turned a fun hobby into a profitable business once he created the bottle and glass design.

Each candle is hand produced on the North Fork. The repurposed 1.5 liter bottle dismantles, revealing a usable wine glass. Once the wax melts, the bottle can be used as a planter, flower vase, or, better yet, wine glass again. For the wine lover in all of us, this really is the gift that keeps on giving.

As the seasons vary, so do the most scents at Wick & Wine, but toast to the flavors of Red Sangria, Champagne Room, Unlimited Mimosas, and Vineyard Breeze. Two new lines are on the horizon including more traditional candle scents and aromatherapy, in addition to adaptable lines of repurposed wine glassware, bath bombs, and soaps.

“Those inexpensive candles stocked to the gills in big retail stores might make a candle lover feel like they’re getting a deal, but in the long run soy wax wins the day every time,” Demo said. “Soy wax is made from all natural vegetable oil – it burns cleaner, safer, and longer.”

Demo donates to several charities and co-founded Kait’s Angels, a nonprofit that aims to empower the local community.

Email to learn about where you can purchase products.

Farmers Kitchen is a fourth-generation family farm located in Jamesport with a storefront in Riverhead. Its greenhouses raise herbs and flowers while field crops produce items such as garlic, onions, and culinary lavender.

Nearly 17 years ago Emilie Zaweski and her husband assembled local gift baskets and opened up the local market by creating a localized candle. Today, their daughter Krista inspired the names of all 17 of their scents, along with the design.

“The candles were designed with our growing operation of herbs on the farm. So, many of our scents were inspired by herbs for their clean, fresh scent,” Zaweski said. Before choosing a specific scent the company asks a varied audience to sample and provide feedback.

Each candle is hand-poured and made with 100 percent soy wax, with lead-free wicks and the purest fragrant oils. In the summertime, whiff the likes of Grapefruit Mango, Cool Citrus Basil, and Coconut Lime Verbena. In fall, a Pear Harvest and Pumpkin Crunch. For winter, there’s Balsam Fir and Citrus Spruce. And in spring, Lemon Verbena.

Visit their Instagram @Farmerskitchenny, email, or call 631-727-7044. Better yet, stop in person at 309-1 Main Street in Riverhead.

Eat, drink, and shop local. Now, light a local candle!

Follow more on Instagram & Facebook @NikkiOnTheDaily

Tipsy Tastes: Twin Still’s Moonshine

(This article first appeared in the November 8, 2017 issue  of The Independent Newspaper, as part of my debut ‘Tipsy Tastes’ series)

Owners Joe and Patty Cunha


Grown on Long Island but inspired by a Portuguese tradition, Twin Stills Moonshine holds pride as the only tasting room of its kind in the area. Naming their distillery after the twin stills imported from Portugal used to make their product, Joe and Patty Cunha have created a unique libation experience on Sound Avenue in Riverhead.

Jose Cunha, Joe Cuhna’s grandfather, began distilling single, small batches of grappa in northern Portugal in 1926. Joe, who bears his grandfather’s name, made frequent trips to the old country, especially over the winter months during the busy season. A passion was born. With the passing of his grandfather in 2006, Cunha decided the best way to continue the family legacy was to recreate it. His dream became a reality in March of 2016 when the logo was sketched after a picture of Jose Cunha and the doors opened up.

“I’m very traditional and family oriented,” Patricia Cunha, wife and partner, noted about supporting her husband’s ambition.

“If you want to do anything, I feel like nothing should stop you. If this is your passion and you want to do it, then let’s do it!”

Made from Long Island corn, the original flavors of this 100-proof moonshine are strawberry and apple pie, with additional products of regular, honey, coffee, chocolate, mixed berry, or the o’OldTymer whiskey aged in American white oak.

“We enjoy what we do over here, so much. We try and make everyone feel at home,” said Cunha.

“When people are sitting down, I’ll go and sit and start talking. I’ll grab my moonshine drink and I’ll sit and hang out for 10, 15 minutes without a care in the world. They ask questions and they all come back.”

The moonshine of yore often connoted male bootleggers sitting around barrels, celebrating illicit behavior. However, most of Twin Stills’s clientele is women — about 60 percent.

The whole process takes between two and three weeks from start to finish, with aged whiskey taking a bit longer. It starts by boiling the sugars out of the corn, throwing them in the fermenters, and adding yeast, which creates a beer-like liquid. After seven days, it is placed in a still where the vapors are condensed into a spirit.

Unlike other companies that produce in mass qualities and substitute with artificial ingredients, Twin Stills creates small batches with 100 percent natural ingredients from in-season flavors.

“I’m not going to use anything artificial in order to sell something. It’s just not who we are,” Patricia Cunha emphasized. You’ll taste real strawberries from strawberry season, pumpkin during fall, and more. The original bottle was the grappa bottle, which is still sold, but the moonshine is also offered now in traditional whiskey bottles. The various flavors can be enjoyed in a unique, hand-made clay cup imported from Portugal.

It’s through dedication to authenticity and tradition that Twin Stills sees a steady 30 percent volume growth each month, particularly during harvest season. Patty Cuhna places a sign out front that reads “Y wait in line? Come try some moonshine.”

Joe explained with a laugh the customers who would come in. “They say ‘Moonshine? What is this? We saw your sign and we did a U-turn.'”

The atmosphere in the tasting room is cozy and designed to feel homelike. Additional signs read “To hell with red wine, pour me some moonshine!” with copper trinkets, metal signs on the wall, and bottles galore. Take comical note of the Polaroid wall behind the bar, where visitors have created moments captured in time. Human pyramids, handstands, glasses breaking, all for the bragging rights of being another familiar face. View the Corn Hole Queens next to the Tasting Kings. Better yet, visit and make a memory of your own!

Emily Oruc, a Stony Brook University student, has been working at Twin Stills for a year and a half and will continue throughout the winter months. “People want to try them, so I’ll give them Apple Pie (my favorite) to start. Everyone who comes in leaves happy.”

Perfect for the season, try the o’Oldtymer from the drink menu — Apple Pie moonshine with caramel sauce drizzle inside the glass over ice. For those eager for more, join the Shine Club which meets on the first Friday of every month. Partake in a private tasting of the latest o’OldTymer moonshine that includes a personal shot glass, three tastings of any spirit, one flight of local, craft beer, and 10 percent off apparel and bottles.

Being extremely hard to come by, the small clay cups are only available for purchase during the big Black Friday event where every bottle purchased received a complimentary cup. In addition to Black Friday, enjoy live entertainment every Saturday and Sunday.

You don’t have to smuggle this alcohol to have a good time. Be welcomed like family and leave as a friend. Skip the wine and come toast with moonshine!

Visit Long Island o’OldTymer at 5506 Sound Avenue in Riverhead, email them at, call 631-779-3199, visit or @lioldtymer.

North Fork Oysters & Greenport Brew

(This article first appeared in the September 13, 2017 issue of The Independent Newspaper)


“Drink and eat local,” John Liegey, co-founder of Greenport Harbor Brewing, echoed over the phone. I’m on a three-way call with him and Ian Wile, owner of Little Creek Oyster Farm & Market.

The two first met approximately five years ago at Greenport’s Oyster Festival, an event dedicated to brews and bivalves. Now, with the brewery’s new expansion into a dual location in Peconic, together they have teamed up to serve the community — customers can now indulge in Greenport on tap at the oyster market.

“I feel like Little Creek is pretty much the epicenter of our connection to Greenport,” Liegey said. “Ian is just amazing. Everybody there has been super supportive of us. When the series first started, which is super select and very limited, we picked out a handful of places to offer the beer and Little Creek was an immediate decision. I love going there, being there — I feel at home there.”

The brewery maintains a local mentality, sending out only eight kegs to New York and eight on Long Island. The rest stays within the community. Little Creek is ideally situated just steps away from the Shelter Island ferry and off Front Street, making it a great drinking experience location. The beers released are selective but thankfully there’s no end in sight for this flavorful partnership.

Wile takes a liking to the playful experimentation of the whole thing. You never know what you’re going to get. “We’ve always enjoyed the Greenport tasting room. And we share in a customer population that’s willing to break out of their habits.” Personal favorites include the Berliners, with their intense sour flavoring. One from the summer season included the Fuzzy Flamingo, a light pink beer that’s anything but ordinary. “It totally challenges what people think of when they think of beer. With daring flavors in it.”

Here today, gone tomorrow, Greenport likes to switch things up with limited releases that are often times at Little Creek for palatable adventures. Craving that fall pumpkin spice? The Leaf Pile Ale is ready for the sipping. Could it be next to your favorite oysters? Stop in to find out every Thursday during beer release night.

The localized relationship is almost symbiotic. A brewery always pushing the boundaries of what traditional beer is and a trusted eatery with an appetite for what’s next. But the real question is, can they shuck themselves?

“Ian taught me how to shuck my own oysters. I don’t know if they’re any tastier when I open them,” Liegey chuckled. “99.9 percent of the time it’s not me opening my own.”

“It’s fine. I don’t brew my own beer,” Wile responded lightheartedly.

Most importantly, raise a glass of the new Oyster Stout to a shucking good time!

Greenport Harbor Brewing is located at 234 Carpenter Street in Greenport (the original brewery) and at 42155 Main Road in Peconic. Call them at 631-477-1100, visit them online at and follow them for the latest “hops” on Instagram @Greenportbrew.

Little Creek Oyster Farm & Market is located at 37 Front Street in Greenport. Call them at 631-477-6992 or visit them online at Don’t forget their Instagram @Northforkoysters.

Daily Fitness: Wine & Yoga

(This article first appeared in the August 16, 2017 issue of The Independent Newspaper)


For the fitness inclined, few things beat the feel of a refreshing workout to start the day. But exercising in the middle of a beautiful, outdoor setting on a crisp morning or during sunset? Well, that’s motivation for anyone. Here are three yoga classes amid an East End landscape to add to your summer bucket list before the season is over.

  1. WÖlffer Estate: Yoga in the Vines

Aside from a killer rosé-all-day mentality, WÖlffer Estate’s not-so-secret Yoga in the Vines is held every Wednesday through Sunday, morning and evening sessions, through October 1. Morning sessions take place at the Wine Stand on Montauk Highway and evening classes at the gazebo behind the main estate.

With several instructors and class times to choose from, this makes for an ideal outdoor yoga session throughout the week. Go with a mat in hand, leave craving Summer in a Bottle!

The Vineyard is located at 139 Sagg Road in Sagaponack, reachable at 631-537-5106.

The Wine Stand is located at 3312 Montauk Highway in Sagaponack, reachable at 631-537-4771.

2. Diliberto Winery: Vinyasa in the Vines

On Saturday, August 26, Diliberto Winery will host a morning session of Vinyasa in the Vines. Lead by Sheryl Oleksak from 10:15 to 11:30 AM, this yoga session is followed by tastings of three wines produced by the winery. Three cheers to that!

Diliberto Winery is located at 250 Manor Lane in Jamesport. Call Sheryl at 516-297-8455.

3. Sang Lee Farms: Yoga on the Farm

If you want to skip the wines and vines, head to Sang Lee Farms on Sunday for a walking meditation followed by a grounded slow flow. Instructor Rebekah Smith will guide you through the herbs, berries, and fields of Sang Lee from 8 to 9:30 AM in a relaxing morning yoga session followed by a 10-ounce certified organic fresh vegetable juice directly from the Sang Lee kitchen. Going green never felt so good.

Sang Lee Farms is located on 25180 County Road 48 in Peconic. Call 631-734-7001.