Karen Marvin opened South Shore Paddleboards in 2014, a dream that for her had been a long time coming. Since the age of ten, Marvin dreamed of owning a shop of her own. But it wasn't until she tried paddleboarding for the first time that she knew what that shop would be.
After a tiresome career in the painting industry, Marvin opened South Shore Paddleboards, the only SUP-specific shop on Long Island. We caught up with Marvin to learn about paddling on Long Island, the different tours her shop offers and how she gives back. –RP
Tell us about the history of the shop.
I started the shop from scratch. There was nothing in the store and I built it from the ground up. When I started paddling, I wanted to share the stoke with as many people as I absolutely could. Nobody had even heard of it or knew what it was so I said to myself, 'I'm gonna give paddleboarding lessons.' At the time, my eight-year-old said, "If you give people lessons and they like it and want to buy a board, you're not going to have any boards left." That immediately prompted me say, 'Oh my goodness, I need to open up shop.' Within 45 days of signing my lease, I opened up South Shore Paddleboards.
What makes Long Island an ideal place for SUP?
Long Island is a piece of land with water all around it. You have Long Island Sound, the ocean and the Great South Bay. Long Island is broken down as the south shore, the north shore and the north fork. I'm five minutes from the ocean—you can surf, SUP, sail or do any type of water sport. It's a water community.
What types of lessons/tours do you offer?
We offer lessons every day, weather permitting. Sunday mornings we do breakfast on the bay. We meet at 7 am, go out and paddle for an hour and a half, and then come back to the beach and have a really nice, healthy breakfast. We have paddleboard socials at the Long Island Yacht Club, which is about a mile from the shop. We also have a junior camp where we introduce SUP to kids starting from 8-17 years old. We train them in basic paddleboarding and by the end of the season, they are competing on race boards in some local races.
How do you give back?
We do a lot of clean-ups. I'm very active in cleaning up the bay, cleaning up the ocean and cleaning up the beaches. I started an organization a few years ago called Saving Our Seashore—we're committed to cleaning the beaches and maintaining a healthy environment. I designed a necklace and a small clothing line and the proceeds from that goes towards a restoration project along the South Shore.
I also donate money to a bunch of local charities, especially one called Save the Great South Bay. I sponsor a race where the proceeds go back to Save the Great South Bay. It's a race called SUP at the BSYC and it's a paddle to the bridge and back. There's a three-mile and a six-mile race. This past race we had 126 paddlers, which makes it the largest paddleboard race on Long Island.
Tell us about the winter season.
There are four seasons in New York and I didn't know what to expect in the fall and winter, but thankfully I am still selling boards. I also sell coastal clothing, winter coats, hats, shoes, cruise wear, bathing suits, sunblock, sunglasses, flip flops, wetsuits and dry suits. If somebody is properly dressed with a dry suit or wetsuit and the bay isn't frozen, I am more than happy to give a paddleboard lesson in the winter. Some years the bay freezes, but some years it doesn't freeze—last year I paddled all winter long.