Paddle to the Party with Mastic Beach Conservancy


The Mastic Beach Conservancy (MBC) took its annual summer block party to a new level by hosting 54 racers in the inaugural Race the Narrows paddle event on the morning of Saturday, July 15. This fundraising race was the latest effort of the organization “to create a beautiful six-mile contiguous waterfront,” as states the MBC website.

“This year we wanted to add the element of getting people involved in not only the community, but in the water,” shared Emily Harrison, a founding member of the MBC, established in 2020.

 Fellow board member Jessamyn Go added that, “It’s amplifying that this is here, and the race brings attention, whether it’s in our town or surrounding towns that people can participate and enjoy these blue trails.”

The two-mile recreational race commenced at Marina 5 and ended at Bayview Park, both locations in the town of Mastic Beach.

Upon check-in racers were given their bibs and heat number. There were nine heats in total with five to seven racers in each. The split was based on age group, gender and vessel. Most participants raced kayaks or paddle boards, but “all self-powered craft” were welcome, per the Conservancy website.

At 9:30 a.m., 15 minutes prior to the first heat’s starting time, there was a Captain’s Meeting at which all participants were required to be present. Safety and logistics were discussed, as well as an overview of the course. Each paddler was given an MBC branded floating keychain with a whistle in case of emergency.

Conservancy President Maura Spery took to the bullhorn during the Captain’s Meeting to address all in attendance. “Our mission is to make a beautiful park along this waterfront with blue trails and green trails, a nature center, places where people can fish, bike, bird. We have unbelievable opportunity here,” Spery said. “You being here it is affirming that we can do this, that we can make this park,” she continued.

Spery was muffled by the enthusiastic cheering of the crowd as she wrapped up her speech with: “You all represent that dream, that vision, that opportunity, so thank you for coming down here and let’s have some fun!”

There were paddlers of all levels present. Three young women were excited to paddle together as new members of the Mastic Beach Conservancy team. Madison O., Kaitlyn C., and Aleena A. all began working for the Conservancy this summer at the oyster farm. “We’re learning to clean the water and filter it out,” Madison explained.

This opportunity came to them following an MBC visit to the local high school where students were invited to sign-up and see if working with the Conservancy was a good fit. As Spery said, each person present was in one or more ways a representation of the potential for this beachside community.

As for the actual paddling, these young workers were here for the fun more than the competition. “I’m just hoping that I don’t flip over or get lost,” Aleena admitted, followed by laughter from her friends.

Luckily, there were a lot of boats there to look out for racers and the general vibe on the water was friendly. Even as racers passed one another, they shared greetings and smiles. Those who own property along the course were sitting out to encourage racers as they paddled by throughout the morning. There were even drummers stationed at Jackson Beach to play music for the racers as they headed into the narrows.

The course took racers through the marina creek and around Violet’s Cove. From the edge of the cove there was a great view of the Smith’s Point bridge as paddlers entered into the Great South Bay. After passing by the local landmark of Cranberry Dock, where there were community and MBC members cheering on paddlers and taking photos, racers were to pass the green buoy on the right side, taking them closer to the shore of Jackson Beach.

Once paddlers entered the narrows, they made their way through Pattersquash Creek before crossing the finish line at the kayak launch in Bayview Park. This conveniently brought participants to the newly named annual block party, Bash by the Bay.

Alexandra de Toth, MBC board member and event coordinator for both Race the Narrows and Bash by the Bay, spoke on the change of location from a street along Narrows Bay to Bayview Park. “The idea of this party and specifically of putting it here is to try and connect with the water, but also have a place to bring the community and enjoy a nice day of music, food and friendship.”

Food vendors, live music and family activities courtesy of both the MBC and the Mastics-Moriches-Shirley Community Library were present at the Bash. Other local organizations were there too, including Save the Great South Bay, which is currently working on a project in Bayview Park.

The property was donated as a passive park, meaning there are no jungle gyms or exercise equipment; it is simply “a place where people can come and enjoy a peaceful moment,” de Toth explained.

Save the Great South Bay is creating a native pollinators garden with milkweed that will bring butterflies for visitors to admire from a respectful distance.

The Awards Ceremony was meant to occur at 12:45 p.m., but there was an issue with Paddleguru, the program used to record times. Instead, results were emailed to paddlers on Sunday, July 16. The fastest overall time was 22 minutes and 39 seconds from paddler Antoinette Kenmuir-Evans.