New 'Paddle Battle' Headed for Riverhead

The event features stand-up paddle boards.

A new event could be coming to the Peconic Riverfront in July that's fun for all -- and will help support local not-for-profit organizations.

Bryan DeLuca, general manager of the Long Island Aquarium & Exhibition Center, came before the town board at Thursday's work session to describe "Paddle Battle LI," an event that would feature stand-up paddle boards, kayaks, and canoes.

"Stand up paddle board is the hottest sport around right now," DeLuca said.

The event, which would take place on July 20 at the Peconic River, would include racing, music, a vendor expo, demos, raffles, an elite 12-mile long course for experienced paddlers, a competitive five-mile course, and a 2.5 mile recreational course.

DeLuca said the mission of organizers, including he and Jim Dreeben, is to raise funds to support the Riverhead Foundation for Marine Research & Preservation and the East End Tourism Alliance, both not-for-profit organizations.

Recreational races will also take place for mixed doubles, ideal for families, DeLuca said. 

In the future, the event could be held in the spring or fall and could potentially be held over two days.

Riverhead Town Supervisor Sean Walter suggested DeLuca check with Town Hall staff to make sure nothing else was planned for that day.

DeLuca said he has already filed for a Chapter 90 and once it is approved, he would like to "aggressively promote" the event. 

Councilwoman Jodi Giglio said the Riverhead Foundation's work is critical and fascinates children who attend seal releases and then track the seals afterward.

The event, DeLuca said, will "bring great awareness" to the Foundation. "They're great biologists but they're not marketers."

Foundation staff travels all over New York and along the East Coast from Virginia to Maine to help rescue marine life, he said; the staff helped with two beached whales last weekend in East Hampton and another earlier in Breezy Point.

"The public doesn't even realize what they do," Councilman John Dunleavy said.

Giglio commended DeLuca for working with Long Island MacArthur Airport on transportation to bring visitors to Riverhead and the East End with an eye toward agri-tourism.

DeLuca said planning is in the early stages to put a tank with sea life in the airport. In addition, he said, plans are in the preliminary stages to consider retail space at the airport to market East End products, including honey, lavendar, and other wares, through the East End Tourism Alliance.

Shops across New York State will promote the "Paddle Battle," DeLuca said, adding that while not many areas on the East End feature similar events, in destinations such as California, they take place every weekend.

"Anything that brings people to Riverhead is a good thing," Dunleavy said.

The board unanimously supported the proposed event and will vote on it at the next town board meeting.


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