Standing Room Only: Cape Cod’s stand-up paddleboard phenomenon

Even if you didn’t you know them by name, you’ve seen a stand-up paddleboard (SUP) somewhere. Maybe stapped to the roof of an SUV, on a ripple-free cove, or on waves off of the Cape Cod National Seashore. By now, there’s probably a good chance you’ve even tried it yourself.

Simply put, stand-up paddleboarding is a water sport in which the rider stands atop what looks like a double-wide surfboard and shovels a single-blade paddle through the water to propel and turn the board. It’s the middle ground between surfing and kayaking.

This Saturday, August 20, marks the 2011 Cape Cod Bay Challenge, a test of endurance in which a field of experienced SUPers traverse the 34 miles across the bay between Plymouth and Wellfleet. The challenge raises money for Christopher’s Haven at Massachusetts General Hospital. To mark the occasion, Shawn Vecchione, a Cape Cod surfboard shaper and Hawaii transplant who we profiled in our July 2011 issue, shares his thoughts on the SUP phenomenon.

Shawn Vecchione and his daughter, paddling across Salt Pond in Eastham

Stand-up paddleboarding is a pretty funny thing to talk about—I have love and hate for it. Stand-up in Kauai pretty much first started taking off when I was there. I was one of the first guys to make one out there. All of the top shapers there, we all helped each other. Laird Hamilton was the pioneer of it, the one really pursuing it and moving it to a new level. I worked alongside his father Billy, Dick Brewer, and Terry Chung, who were all working on Laird’s boards. And we were all working together with different board designs and dimensions. Read more…

Cuttyhunk and Family

Following my first long weekend on Cuttyhunk I reported to the Cape Cod Life staff that, “Now, I am permanently relaxed.” Ohh, the ssoundz of the ssurff are soo sooothing.

On the evening of the day we arrived, my wife, Judy, and I drove our golf cart to the highest point on the island just before sunset. Along with maybe a half dozen other sunset devotees, we inhaled, absorbed and lingered in the magical, pastel atmosphere enshrouding the island. From Buzzards Bay to Block Island Sound in the west, all the way up to the Cape Cod Canal, and then down to the Gay Head Lighthouse on Martha’s Vineyard in the east, the water was calm, the sky was clear, and the colors were soft.

In the morning accompanied by our black Lab, Sam, Judy and I walk on Barge’s Beach, from the MV/Cuttyhunk ferry dock to the Canapitsit Channel. There is always a significant tidal current running through this narrow passageway separating Cuttyhunk from the island of Nashawena. Both shores are lined with rocks and the large rolling and crashing waves at the entrance to the channel have proved at times to be treacherous for passing mariners. However, the salt-laden, energy charged atmosphere is both enticing and enthralling. Seen from a slight distance a spray mist billows above the rocky shore awash in surging surf.

Toward the end of the summer day, I find my way to a secluded spot for a refreshing dip. I don’t actually swim; I prefer to float or stand still in water deep enough to cool me down and feel myself decompress. I am reminded of my father; when I was young, this late-in-the-day ritual was one of his also.

On the evening of the full moon, I relished the moonrise over Menemsha across Vineyard Sound. Everything was very peaceful and the lighted moonbeam on the sound reached seven miles from Martha’s Vineyard to the coast of Cuttyhunk. It is unusual when we experience a few minutes of such natural beauty that it occurs to us that we don’t want it to end.

Following long weekends my son Max, 14, would go home with me because we both had to return to work. Max has been enjoying his job at the Cataumet Light Mini Golf and Bumper Boats. I told Max I really appreciated his help going back and forth to Cuttyhunk. He is very capable and very comfortable with everything aboard our boat, including navigating in a heavy fog.

I was proud to see my 17-year-old son, Joshua’s, photograph of the Long Point Lighthouse in Provincetown Harbor as the front cover of our August issue. When Editor Susan Dewey and Art Director Chrissy Caskey first showed me the photo for the cover, I did not realize that Josh was the photographer. To see “The Cape Cod National Seashore Celebrates 50 Years” featured on the cover and learn that Josh took the cover photo created a special moment for me.

Although I was just finishing grammar school at the time, my love affair with Cape Cod had begun and I was a fan of President Kennedy when he signed the national park legislation in 1961. I believe that the National Seashore has made an enormous contribution to the preservation of fragile beauty on Cape Cod. Since our first issue in 1979, Cape Cod Life has attempted to contribute to people’s awareness of and appreciation of the fragile beauty of Cape Cod, Martha’s Vineyard, and Nantucket. So, in our 32nd year of publishing we feature the National Seashore 50th and my son provides the cover photo. It felt to me like a family milestone.

Speaking of family, as this issue goes to press, my sister, Mary, and Anthony Dorato are planning to be married on August 13th. My whole family is very happy for both Mary and Anthony. It took Mary years to find Anthony, someone as considerate, as caring and as intelligent as herself.

My best,


Shark Week Comes to Cape Cod

Last Sunday, the Discovery Channel kicked off its annual Shark Week programming with Jaws Comes Home, an hour-long documentary about the recent shark phenomenon off of Chatham. Filmed in summer 2010, the documentary follows Greg Skomal, shark expert with the Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries, and crew as they patrol the waters off of Chatham and Monomoy Island to tag white sharks and to gain an understanding of why they come here.

Cape Cod Life readers may remember Skomal from “Great White? Nope,” a feature story we ran in the early months of 2009 about the region’s fixation on great white shark sightings. With the surfeit of shark sightings that arrived off of Chatham later that year—likely a result of the boom in the grey seal population, the experts say—what was once a set of I-swear-I-saw-it anomalies is nowa bona fide phenomenon.

Skomal at Naushon Island in 2004. Image courtesy of the Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries.

Read more…

A Few Days on the Vineyard

Judy’s and my boys, Josh, 17, and Max, 14, had just finished school with a few days left before having to report for their summer jobs. Judy and I thought that, as a family, it would be a great time to take a break. The boys agreed, so away we went. We are most fortunate in having all of the Cape and Islands so readily accessible for last minute planning.

The day before we departed was actually the first day of summer. It was hot and sunny and the ocean was flat calm. Passengers were numerous, but the ferry ride to Martha’s Vineyard was as smooth as riding on a cloud. It was very quiet and as the mainland of the Cape slipped away behind us, the perfectly still water stretched to the horizon in three directions. The scene was surreal and I could feel myself relaxing. We arrived in Oak Bluffs. I just love the whole setting of the steamship ferry pier across the road from the expansive Ocean Park. The gingerbread houses are like colorful pearls in a necklace around the great green park with the band gazebo.

So much of Martha’s Vineyard just seems to be laid out naturally to welcome visitors. The harbors are indicative of what you find in each area. Vineyard Haven Harbor is very wide with lighthouses on the eastern and western shores as you enter. Year-round, Vineyard Haven sees the most ferry traffic and Main Street is only one block from the harbor. Concentrated for visitors’ convenience is a marvelous selection of unique retail shops, galleries, and eateries.

The next opening in the shoreline is Oak Bluffs Harbor. Although smaller in size, it is easy to enter and well protected in rough weather. Architecturally fascinating, old-style summer homes and hotels abut the harbor, and the pier is sprinkled with visitor-oriented shops and open-air restaurants. Within two blocks of the harbor so many small businesses offer so much fun—what better village could be home to the magical Flying Horses Carousel?

Up island, you find Aquinnah, home to the Gay Head Lighthouse, the authentic fishing village of Menemsha, and the tiny harbor by the same name.

The entrance to Edgartown Harbor is classic with a lighthouse on your right and a private beach club on your left. The stately hotels and summer homes dot the shoreline and create a beautiful skyline along the expansive harbor. The shops, galleries, and eateries are all top-notch. It was Martha’s Vineyard Restaurant Week, and we were lucky to get the last table available at L’Etoile Restaurant, the best of the best.

By way of the On Time ferry, we visited Chappaquiddick to see my brother Mike and his wife, Cathy, at their summer home. Along with their nephew, Keaton Beams, we strolled to the bluff overlooking Katama Bay, all the while the boys tossing their football in a game of keep-away. Mike pointed out how the barrier beach break had widened and was in fact migrating eastward toward Wasque Point. As Mike and I admired the awesome beauty in his little corner of the world, we agreed that, “Where the land ends, LIFE begins.”

To contribute my fair share to the local economy, I did some shopping. I bought four hand-painted wall signs. For my wife, Judy, and Sam, her black Lab, I found, “LIFE’S DRAB WITHOUT A LAB.” Also, I found signs for three Cape Cod Life team members. Marianna Lynch was visiting her first-born grandchildren that week. Her son Ryan and daughter-in-law Eleanor had very recently begun their family with triplets. Marianna’s sign reads, “GRANDCHILDREN ARE GOD’S REWARD FOR NOT KILLING YOUR OWN KIDS.” This year, Liz Flynn was recognized by the MSPCA for her generous volunteer work. Liz’s sign reads, “THIS HOME IS BLESSED WITH LOVE, LAUGHTER, FRIENDSHIP, AND A CAT.” Finally, for the office wall of our ever-so-competent Associate Publisher and Editor, Susan Dewey, I found, “I’D AGREE WITH YOU, BUT THEN WE’D BOTH BE WRONG.”

Our trip to the Vineyard was relaxing, entertaining, and fun. May your summer be as well.

My Best,


Brian Shortsleeve, President and Publisher

P.S. Just as we were about to go to press, Editor Susan Dewey and Creative Director Chrissy Caskey showed me six potential cover photos for this issue. We finally chose the beautiful Rising Stars image that you see here. Susan surprised me by telling me at that point that my son, Josh, shot this photo last summer. What a proud moment for me! As we all know, summer days on Cape Cod have a way of shaping your life for years to come.

When Words Bloom

When our publisher, Brian Shortsleeve, suggested that we launch Cape Cod GARDENS as a new April Cape Cod LIFE issue, I could not believe my luck.  I can work in my Cape Cod garden by the hour without any sense of time. I am imagining bright red tomatoes, rows of vibrant basil, glimmering mounds of zucchini, billowing hydrangea, and perfect velvet-petaled roses as I plant, weed, and prune. I do not stop until the spring, summer, or fall sun goes down, or a blister develops on my hand, or my family and the dog wander by, wondering about a meal. Reluctantly, then, I put down my tools and turn off the story in my head. But I know I can pass through that gate again tomorrow into that imaginary world.

The same thing happens to me when I am writing .  When I am writing at the office and it is going well, I do not hear phones ringing or coworkers talking. I am in whatever world I am creating and reality moves without boundaries just before a blinking cursor on my computer screen. Often, I don’t realize that the day is almost over until it starts to get dark in my office and I notice that my coworkers are heading home. This is what happens when you do not care how many hours it takes to help create a magazine with words and pictures as if it were a garden full of sight, color, and experiences so vivid that others can know it with you.

In this issue, you will see some of my garden world. Just as it is a joy for me to share this passion with you, one of the Cape’s best known garden writers, C.L.Fornari takes you through the world of growing roses, her knowledgeable words guiding you down the path to growing that perfect seaside rose. When C.L. writes about gardening, you can tell that she loves her job, too.

Our photographers move you into the natural world on Cape Cod and the Islands, their images caught in flashes of glory on these pages, so vivid that you want to reach out and touch that hot chartreuse beach grass along a wooded Nantucket path, where a gardener is following his vision of plants and stones and glimmering koi in a small pond…

I hope our very first Cape Cod GARDENS helps you shape your own garden world, perhaps with a little bit of Cape Cod and the Islands beauty from these pages in it, some bright lilies seen in this issue beside a Nantucket pond, or my favorite nasturtiums by our back door dancing in the golden light of a Cape Cod afternoon.

Happy gardening,
Home Spring 2011

Susan Dewey, Associate Publisher & Editor


Our Life’s Canvas

Our Lifes Canvas

One of the best things about living on Cape Cod is the diversity of its art world. There are artists of many kinds on the Cape and Islands, and the depth of their talents make it hard to choose who to profile in our arts edition. Some of the people profiled on these pages were suggested to me by friends, co-workers, and other artists. I have met some of them personally at cultural events. I wish that we had endless pages to present more of their work—it is always hard to pick photos reflecting an artist’s talent. Read more…

Where the Land Ends LIFE Begins

Is there anything more graceful than a pair of full-grown white swans slowly moving across flat calm water? Or, a couple of Snowy Egret standing still in the shallow corner of a tidal cove? The Egret wait for tiny fish to unsuspectingly pass by, and then fast as you can snap your fingers, they snatch themselves a seafood sampler. Early and late in the season, majestic Great Blue Heron frequent the cove and surrounding shoreline. All the while osprey circle high and watch, then dive-bomb, splash, snatch, and carry wiggling little pogy back to mama in the nest.

About an hour after the tide begins to ebb, folks start fishing from the shore along the channel. The slightly warmer tidal waters up in the coves and bays carry food and run through the channel, then the harbor and out to open water in Buzzards Bay. Those who are fishing stand so still for so long with their feet planted solidly on the ground they know while casting their bait into the unpredictable world under water.

When the tide gets low, shell fishermen emerge and comb the shores and shallows. Warm-weather recreational clamming is one thing, but when I watch commercial shell fishermen working year-round, I never complain about the price of an oyster.

Low tide is also my favorite time for walking the beach around the island, which is adjacent to the channel. Owned and protected by the local Bourne Conservation Trust, and very reachable by small boat, walkers, swimmers, clammers, and sunbathers young and old frolic at the water’s edge. In the off-season, or the off-hours when the beaches are deserted, my wife, Judy, brings our black Lab, Sam. It is hard to tell who loves it more, us or Sam. Judy collects pretty shells and sparkles them up as Christmas tree ornaments. Plus, she finds marvelous beach glass. Writer Katy Trip likens all of us to beach glass, “as we lose our sharp edges among the currents of life, develop inner beauty and become someone to cherish midst the sands of time.”

On the south side, this little island faces Megansett Harbor in North Falmouth. The pier, boat ramp, yacht club, and beach beyond the jetty form the heart of this graceful old community in the summertime. From sailing lessons and club races to ice cream cones and an evening stroll to the pier at sunset, the days begin and end at the harbor.

Our sons, Max and Josh, now 14 and 17, usually launch boats from the ramp in Megansett Harbor. It is such a pleasure to see them so smoothly, and so independently, maneuver on the water. From the sea conditions and marine forecast to knowing “the rules of the road” and “boating courtesy,” the wonderful world of water presents an opportunity for home-schooling and responsible behavior.

Just outside Megansett Harbor, the Cleveland Ledge Lighthouse stands proud at the head of Buzzards Bay. Just south of the lighthouse, one finds the naturally beautiful Elizabeth Islands and the Woods Hole channel leading to Martha’s Vineyard, Nantucket, and the south side of Cape Cod. Just north of the lighthouse one finds the Cape Cod Canal leading to Cape Cod Bay, Massachusetts Bay, and the coast of Maine. From here one could go around the world.

When I need quiet time to think, I get where land, sea, and sky all meet in proper perspective, and the world just makes a little more sense to me.

I hope your summertime is delightful.

My Best,



Brian Shortsleeve, President and Publisher

Page 5 of 512345