It was her first time kayaking, but as Jerry Foster owner of Freeport Kayak Rentals helped Jackie Comitino, 37, from Glen Cove adjust her life jacket; she assured her friends she wasn’t nervous. Like Comitino, there were hundreds of canoers, kayakers, paddle boarders and rafters preparing to paddle along Hewlett Point Park at the Blueway Festival on June 16.
Underneath a sunny sky, Foster walked Comitino to the edge of the shore and instructed her on how to kayak and eventually helped her aboard a single rider ocean kayak. With a push, she was off. Throughout the morning into the early part of the afternoon, seasoned kayakers and beginners were seen merrily paddling on the bay, while others paddled leisurely on standup paddleboards. All of the activities at the Blueway Festival were free and open to the public. The Blueway Festival was supported by a number of Freeport organizations like Freeport Kayak Rental and Operation S.P.L.A.S.H. and included Friends of South Shore Blueway.
“Kayaking brings people closer to the water and slows people down,” said Rob Weltner, president of Operation S.P.L.A.S.H.
“You get to appreciate the magnificence of the water up close and personal.”
The festival is designated to celebrate the newly created South Shore Blueway Trail, which includes 22 launches and landings, spanning some 50 miles of coastline and encompassing 21,000 acres of waterways from the western border of the Town of Hempstead to the Nassau/Suffolk County line in South Oyster Bay. The village of Freeport, along with Nassau County, was also involved in the development the South Shore Blueway Trail Plan and included Freeporters who serve on the South Shore Blue Trail Advisory Committee — Joe Creamer of The Freeport Inn, Ray Maguire of the Freeport Fire Department, Nora Saunders, grants technician of the village and Weltner.
According to Foster, he was eager to bring out his kayaks to the Hewlett Bay Park especially on Father’s Day weekend, when families may be looking for something different to do with dad.
“I’ve always been a kayaker and this is a great opportunity to introduce kayaking people who’ve never kayaked before,” Foster said.
Throughout the day, the festival offered guided marsh eco-tours, kids kayaking classes, a series of races and even a paddleboard yoga class. After safely returning to shore, Comitino smiled as she took off her life jacket adding she loved the time she spent on the water in spite of her initial worries.
“I thought I was going to capsize and drown,” Comitino said. “But I didn’t.”