Experience Saltwater Long Island, a new not-for-profit, will rent kayaks and paddle boards and offer children’s programs at Smith Point Beach this summer.
Shawn Dillon, a physical education teacher for 23 years at Longwood High School and the founder of the new venture, aims to instill a lifelong appreciation of nature and outdoor physical activity in as many children as he can.
“Our mission is to put as many kids on the water this summer as possible, and teach them a little bit about what to do and appreciate everything that Long Island has to experience in a safe way,” Dillon said.
For more than 15 years, Dillon ran an outdoor education club through Longwood schools. He recently secured Suffolk County permits to set up his service at Smith Point on the Narrow Bay side — and educate the public outside of academia.
“I take the kids kayaking and paddle boarding and surf casting and (water) skiing,” he said of his outdoor education club. “Pretty much anything and everything that I can expose the kids to in the outdoors, I try my best to. There was just an overwhelming response through the years to do this for the adults.”
Current and former student members of his club will volunteer at his new nonprofit to guide younger children in the Narrow Bay at Smith Point County Park. Dillon said each volunteer will receive a scholarship at the end of the summer.
Dillon said he already set up relationships with various youth groups to run programs for children for small donations. He notes that Experience Saltwater in a nonprofit and not run as a business, and therefore, he will run children’s programs for a flat-fee donation.
“Longwood is a socio-economically diverse school, so a lot of kids don’t have the money or the means to try a lot of this stuff,” he said. “Or their parents are working and don’t have the time to take them to a lot of these things. Just to have that experience and let them know that these things are available, I think is important.”
Adults are welcome to board their own kayaks at Dillon’s launch site, or rent one of his kayaks and venture into the bay on their own. Prices start at $40 to rent a kayak for two hours, or $70 for a full-day rental.
“Throughout the summer, we’re going to do all sorts of different programs and family events, family paddles,” Dillon said. “It’s going to be neat because of the location. There will be a lot of first-time kayakers and paddle boarders.”
Featured image: Experience Saltwater Long Island’s Facebook page.