Oar and Paddle Regatta returns

Kayaks, paddleboards, canoes, oh my!


Friends, family, and neighbors headed to Sengekontacket Pond Sunday, August 28, to have some competitive fun out on the water with kayaks, canoes, paddleboards, and more for the 32nd annual Oar and Paddle Regatta, hosted by Island Spirit Kayak. The 2.4-mile race on the pond raises money each year for Friends of Sengekontacket. 

The Friends of Sengekontacket are involved in a number of initiatives to maintain and sustain the coastal environment near Senge and State Beach. Funds from the regatta also go toward trash pickup, nitrogen testing in the pond, and barrier beach grass planting. 

Skippers met at 9 am, then all racers departed in one group, beginning at 9:15 am. Everyone’s pace was timed, and there were some impressive runs coming out of this year’s regatta. 

This year, the Amity Shark Race, hosted by Felix Neck Wildlife Sanctuary and Island Spirit, preceded the paddle and oar race — wooden shark fins were raced through the pond channel to raise money for Felix Neck.

Island Spirit always donates their entire fleet of boats for the race, so folks had the option of bringing their own boat or using one provided by Island Spirit (although they do ask for an additional donation so they can keep making their fleet available).

Personal flotation devices are always required during the race, and safety kayakers were positioned at different points along the race route. 

One of the most fun things about the Oar and Paddle Regatta is the variety of people who participate — racers who are 5 years old and racers who are in their 90s. The race also has a special category for people who paddle with their dogs. 

Single paddlers paid a $50 entry fee, and doubles paid $100. Everyone who entered the tournament received a racing day packet, along with the chance to win cool prizes.

According to Chick Stapleton, owner of Island Spirit, there were a lot of fresh faces out on the water for this race. “My son is 11, and all of his friends were out there with him,” Stapleton said. With plenty of time before the race started, Stapleton’s brother, who sponsored all the food for the event, made breakfast sandwiches for the crowd at 7 am. “Everyone had bacon and eggs and coffee,” Stapleton laughed. 

The tide conditions were perfect for shark fin racing, Stapleton noted, and said she’s proud to report the Stapleton family actually won the Amity Shark Race under the bridge. “That’s a really fun event for a great cause — supporting Felix Neck,” Stapleton said. 

This year, the Huth family received the Spirit Award for constantly training out on the beach with their pups. Stapleton said it was common to see the Huths practicing four or five times a week out on the water in their double kayak. 

Dana Gaines has won the regatta every year since the start, and although some folks thought this year was the year to shake things up, the results were the same as in prior years — Gaines was minutes faster than his runner-up. “He’s not getting ousted anytime soon. He keeps saying he just keeps getting better equipment,” Stapleton said. “He does have a pretty nice boat.”

Randy Durbin, who makes some of the beautiful wooden kayaks you see around the Island, came in first place for sea kayaks. According to Stapleton, six of his handmade kayaks were used by participants in the race this year. The paddleboarding competition was intense this year, Stapleton said, with around eight paddleboarders participating with some high-end equipment. Tucker Cosgrove came in first for paddleboards. 

Stapleton explained that she is on the board of Friends of Sengekontacket, and said one of their main goals is to ban the sale of nips on Martha’s Vineyard. This year, a big shark head constructed with empty nip bottles named “Nipsey” illustrated the problem of nip litter along State Beach and the pond. A significant amount of the money raised during the regatta goes toward paying five workers, who go around almost every day to pick up trash along the stretch of beach.