As soon as I saw her in Dean & Deluca, I knew it was who I was meeting. Anyone who had a desire to bring Paddle Boarding to Charlotte was going to have a certain look to her. There she was in her bright workout gear with her blonde Mohawk that only she could pull off. As we sat and chatted over salads, I determined quickly that her enthusiasm was infectious and if she told me to jump off a bridge because it was fun, I would probably do it. I always admire a person that finds something that they are passionate about, and will do anything to bring it to those around them. For Gina it is Paddle Boarding. I was so excited to see the season changing, but now I can’t wait the weather to come back around. When it does, I’m getting out on this board with her, and I’m taking my family with me! 🙂
Smarty Mom Gina Vincent
Children: Kai (son) 12, Sonia (daughter) 8
Husband: Mark for 15 years as of 10/2/14 🙂
Years in Charlotte: 21 years
Hometown: Farmingville, NY (Long Island, Suffolk County)
College Alumni: Fashion Institute of Technology, New York, New York
Occupation: Cruise Director of my dream business Paddle 2 Paradise. I also teach Yoga and Booty Barre around town.
Tell me how what brought you to Charlotte and your husband met? I was offered a job transfer from Belk Store Services in NYC to Belk Store Services in Charlotte, NC. It was a smart move for me at the time as my parents and brother were living and still live in Winston-Salem, NC. At that time my sister was in Raleigh, NC studying. Moving to Charlotte felt like coming home since my family was now living in N.C.
My aunt and uncle were behind my husband and I meeting. They lived in NY and asked me to contact Mark (who they knew through his mother), so they could see him as they travelled through to Florida for the upcoming winter. I called Mark and explained that I was my Aunt Lore’s niece and that my aunt and uncle were coming to Charlotte. Unfortunately, my aunt and uncle had to delay their trip due to health issues. Mark invited me out anyway and months later, as my aunt and uncle finally made their way to Charlotte after their winter in Florida, they arrived to find that Mark had proposed and I had accepted.
I love this new adventure that you are taking on. Tell me more about it and what you are hoping to accomplish with it here in Charlotte. I am delighted and busting at the seams about Paddle 2 Paradise. I grew up at the beach; my parents had me in the water and playing in the sand ever since I could sit up. Some of my fondest memories were that of all 5 of us getting on the boat and waterskiing, swimming, pulling up to shore and watching the sun begin to set. I have always loved the water; I find peace and renewal there. It has been said that the sound of the waves coming to shore helps the body get back into its natural rhythm. Maybe that’s what I feel.
While Mark was living on dialysis awaiting a kidney and liver transplant, I begged to get out of town. We packed up the dialysis machine and all the other things that go with it and headed to Charleston, SC for a 2-night reprieve with the kids. As the tide went out and the wind died down a Standup Paddle Board (SUP) class began. I was in AWE. Walking on water – just like Jesus. That’s got to feel AMAZING. I told my husband once you have your kidney/liver transplant and are healthy again we MUST try that.
Thankfully, he listened. In March of this year, Mark and I traveled for the first time to Hawaii and stayed in Waikiki Beach. He signed us up for a private SUP lesson. I was in LOVE and head over heels for SUP. I didn’t want to give the instructors their boards back and I immediately told Mark I wanted one for Christmas.
Well… I couldn’t wait till Christmas, so we bought 2 boards in Florida during Spring Break. The kids immediately took to our new adventure as well.
During June, I trained in St. Petersburg, Florida to become a SUP Guide as well as a SUP Yoga instructor.
My vision is to bring joy to kids, families, couples, friends, siblings and the like while exploring, escaping, and rejuvenating themselves right here in the Charlotte area. Charlotte does not have all the magnificent beaches I grew up with for families to play in the water/sun so I want to facilitate allowing families, friends, couples to explore a day on the water in a new way here in their backyard.
We love doing evening paddle lessons or a tour with a picnic during the sunset hours. These can be private or open for multiple people who may no know each other; I love to connect people and this activity is an opportunity for strangers to make new friends. By the time we stop to picnic, we will have had many laughs together already. Family outings are great to do during the afternoon with a picnic lunch. SUP Yoga is another thing altogether. We typically allow a few minutes to paddle and then begin class; although it’s peaceful to be outside in the fresh air and feeling the sun on our shoulders, practicing yoga on an SUP adds another element: core strength and balance.
Paddle to Paradise. At least for me “paradise” feels so far away when you are in the hustle and bustle of Charlotte. But you know of some amazing “Paradise” spots right here in Charlotte. Tell me about them!!!
I have found my favorite paddling location to be Mountain Island Lake; Latta Plantation Park is a free county park and a local gem; the lake is rather quiet most of the time. The water access at the park is simple and easy; the lake is clean and the picnic tables and bathroom make it a no-brainer.
A close second is Cane Creek Park in Union County. A colleague at the Y told me about this hidden treasure. Cane Creek has no homes and only a few fishermen, water-skiers and boaters. Also, it is very serene.
Paddle boarding looks so difficult. But after talking to you, I feel like anyone can do it? Right? Yes, anyone can do it. Standup paddle- boards are made to support large weights; they keep the paddler feeling stable. The trick is fitting the person to the right board. If someone doesn’t feel secure standing, they can easily knee up and paddle till they feel ready. Kids thrive on SUP since they have no fear. If one falls off, the only thing that happens is that one gets wet and typically laughs out loud. It is very easy to get back on and then back upright on the board. They don’t flip over like I feared they might.
You are such a fitness guru. What does being active bring to your life? I wouldn’t call myself a fitness guru. One of my favorite yoga teachers, Lisa Tendler, once said she is new to yoga. I still consider myself new to fitness; it’s only been a decade-long journey. I learn something new every week.
Being active keeps my family entire healthy. My husband and kids sit at a desk ALL week long. It is wonderful to have something fun that everyone can experience and enjoy as a family unit. They love teaching their friends as well. I think being active on the water can help quiet the mind from a computer or the “to-do” lists that we make in our head.
Your family had its fair share of medical trauma. How do you think that has changed the way you live your life? Mark’s polycystic kidney and liver disease changed our life prior to him being that ill. I knew the day he proposed that he had the same illness his Mother had died of years earlier. I had luckily met her through my aunt when I was an early teen.
We chose to make it our goal to take as many vacations as we could (without Mark losing his job). It would be important for us to live in the moment – just the way yoga taught me years later. Mark’s illness unfortunately and fortunately happened 20 years earlier than what happened to his mother. It caught us off guard with 2 young kids in the house.
Mark suffered more than a year in kidney failure and life was miserable. I was worried, confused, exhausted, pulled in 12 directions, running to pre-school, running to the kindergarten bus and running to the dialysis center.
Fortunately, Mark was able to received two beautifully healthy organs and move forward with great zest for life than ever before. Please don’t misunderstand: it took a good year for this to happen post transplant.
We are blessed in so many ways and now want to pay it forward. I wish to inspire people to see that life is a blessing.
I know that you always had desire to adopt a child. Tell me about the process of adopting your daughter and what it means to give a home to a child in need. We were blessed with a wonderful adoption journey. It couldn’t have gone any smoother. I was not getting pregnant and always wanted to adopt. My husband was all for it. One Halloween we came to the decision it was time. Our son, Kai was now 3. Timing was perfect. Our friend, Diane had adopted a daughter from China and with glee explained November is national adoption month. Perfect timing! I hit the pavement in uptown where they were holding an adoption seminar that weekend.
We began our home study in January and hired our agency in March 2006. Sonia Rebeca was born in Guatemala on April 10th and we got the phone call along with photos on April 17th. What a cutie pie. She looked just like our son – if we had dressed him in a dress.
I researched her name Sonia – it means “wise”, stemming from Sophia and Rebecca from the Bible; she moved far from her family to live with Isaac.
How profound that her birth mother name her Sonia Rebeca; that would remain her name.
Mark and I traveled to Guatemala to bring her home that October and we’ve been her proud parents ever since. I must say all the Guatemalan children are adorable; if I had the money and the patience, I would have adopted a dozen children. Now I adopt stray cats and dogs. LOL.
Who are your role models? That’s a hard one for me. I think of Jesus, Ghandi, and Mother Teresa: people who bring forth peace.
What do you and your husband like to do in Charlotte on your date nights? Did I tell you I am married 15 years – date night??? Only teasing. We do need to plan more though. Often times our date nights involve dinner and the Charlotte Symphony. Mark prefers the classics while I love the fun ones – Wizard of Oz, Latin Night, and all the not so classic.
Our date night has truly become 1 week per year away from the kids since his transplant. This has been a great blessing to reconnect quietly without interruption in an exotic place.
What are some of your guilty pleasures? Chocolate and sweet desserts. I don’t have a sweet tooth; rather I have a mouthful of them! There is nothing more sad to me than being in a place like Germany, looking at beautiful desserts through the bakery window and then placing a bite of one in the mouth to find they are not so sweet at all!
Where do you like to shop in Charlotte? I prefer the Nordstrom shoe department; I guess I need to list that as a guilty pleasure too. I can typically find a cute maxi dress in LA East just prior to a vacation as well.
What topics in the news do you feel get too much attention? How about too little attention? I avoid the news. My mother unfortunately is GLUED to the news and feels strongly that she needs to tell me everything that is wrong the world.
In my opinion the news focuses on all things fear creating and too little on the people doing work paying it forward. There are kids and adults doing great things in society but we cannot easily hear about it because it is not played in the news.
What is something about you that would surprise people? Gosh that is difficult. As you can see and hear – I talk toooooo much; I am an open book. One day, I had someone make me laugh – she said, “Oh, you must be such a cool mom.” I laughed and said, “no, my kids would tell you I am strict and no fun.”
What are two of the products in your life that you can’t live without? I cannot live without my #7 Mac eyelashes and the glue that holds them in place. I bought them to wear to my sister’s wedding more than 8 years ago and never wanted to wear mascara again. I love my eyelashes. Maybe that’s because my real eyelashes are as straight as the hair on my head.
What is your biggest pet peeve? I cannot stand repeating myself to my kids. Can they not hear me? Should I speak louder? Are they ignoring me or do they just plain like seeing me lose my cool???
What has been the most memorable experience of your life? Giving birth. It was a real joy! I had an awesome mid-wife at an OB/GYN practice. I prayed not to need drugs during the delivery and all went as prayed for.
For more information on Paddle to Paradise, please visit email Gina at firstname.lastname@example.org or call her schedule a lesson at 980-349-5727.