2018 Cupsogue Yeauhh

Life is either a great adventure or nothing.-Helen Keller

Time-travel back to the year 2000.  I had just moved to Alaska and bought a home thinking my restless feet might finally settle down. As I grapple with the sedation of a rural bedroom community 50 miles north of Anchorage, it only takes a few months for me have my adventure radar on full tilt seeking other adventurous souls.  Enter Stage-right as Sean and two other peeps from New York City team up with some local Anchorage folks to form a four-person opera ensemble chartered to deliver micro-sized operas to elementary school children and Bush Alaska as a cultural education offering.  Being tasked as the photographer to document a weekend program in remote Dillingham, Alaska, the adventures were to begin.

Gun Store in Dillingham, Alaska
Gun Store in Dillingham, Alaska

Our crew of four left the muddy airstrip to stroll the muddy sidewalks and peruse “downtown” Dillingham. The Yup’ik people claimed Dillingham for 100’s of years but when Skipper James Cook arrived to the Bristol Bay region, the Russians, British and Americans immediately saw the opportunity to fish. Nowadays the average population can run over 3000 people in the summer as fisherman and opportunists arrive. Our group stroll led us by a gun store and there were two very interesting characters keeping shop.   We walked in and it was obvious we were all “big city folks” and the gentlemen were very engaging.  Turns out the one gentleman ran his own radio station out of his home and we returned later that night so he could interview the troupe on live radio.   The opera installation went well and Sean and I became good friends.

Fast forward to 2015 and I end up running the New York City Half Marathon with Sean (or, we started at the same time). I did not finish LAST!  He mentions he recently scored a good deal on a second property out at Westhampton Beach on eastern Long Island.  I say “let’s check it out!”. We did a quick trip out for two days and I absolutely fell in love with the vibe of Westhampton Beach.  Sean took me nearby to his fav surfing break; shipwrecks out at Cupsogue Beach.

Rogers Beach sunrise
Rogers Beach sunrise

Cupsogue sounds like a weird name to someone unfamiliar with Long Island.  It turns out many of the towns and hamlets have Native American references to their history.  Dated from the 1690s, the Native American word Cupsogue means “a closed inlet”. The park’s land was entirely part of Fire Island until a 1931 Nor’easter created the Moriches Inlet, which enlarged between 1933 and 1938. The park was acquired by the Suffolk County Parks Department in the 1950s, and by the 1970s Cupsogue Beach County Park was given a pavilion and boardwalk.  A breach connecting the Atlantic Ocean and Great South Bay occurred on the east end of the park as a result of high tides during Hurricane Sandy in 2012. The breach widened from 150 feet (46 m) to 300 feet (91 m) less than a week later when a Nor’easter hit. Officials closed the breach with a $6 million project that pumped in 200,000 cubic yards (150,000 m3) of sand.

Westhampton Beach Main Street
Westhampton Beach Main Street courtesy of Westhampton Beach HIstorical Society

Not long after the English colonizers settled Southampton, they explored and soon took up a few sparse settlements further west. Their first deeds were for lands east of Canoe Place (Shinnecock Canal) in 1640. There were conflicting ownership claims between the settlers and the local Shinnecock Indian Tribe, before being awarded to Southampton Town by the governor in 1666. That deal was known as the Quogue Purchase. The Indians were paid 70 pounds in British money plus a few trinkets, historians say. Indians called the purchased area Ketchaponack, or “place where large roots grow.” It covered land that now includes Westhampton Beach Village and surrounding parts of the town including unincorporated Westhampton.

The village of Westhampton Beach was incorporated in 1928. In 1938, almost all summer homes on its barrier beach were obliterated by a hurricane resulting in twenty-nine local deaths.

Westhampton Beach Performing Arts Center
Westhampton Beach Performing Arts Center

Like most of the shoreline of eastern Long Island, the beach at Westhampton Beach was eroding shoreward. This became a political issue in the 1960s. The project to protect the beaches in the area from further erosion was started by the Army Corp of Engineers in 1966, but was only partially completed because of the failure to secure funds from the state and local government. In addition the project design was seriously flawed. As a result, there was increased erosion at the beaches in Westhampton Beach while, up current, the beaches actually grew. During the late 1970s and through the 1980s, beach homes were washed away with every severe storm (nor’easter) that hit the coast. It was only after the nor’easter of November 1992 destroyed over eighty homes, that the Army Corp of Engineers began renewed repair efforts. In the mid-1990s, fifteen historic houses were relocated by the Army Corps of Engineers. The homes were moved off the beach and out of harm’s way, at least for a while, but the beach is still eroding and addition damage is incurred with every storm. Additional work was required after Hurricane Sandy in 2012.

Without any commitments or official proclamations, the 3rd weekend in September has been my designated “Head to the Hamptons” adventure as Sean gets us out to wherever the waves might be cranking. This is the perfect calendar date as the ocean water is still warm, the summer crowds have gone back to the city, and the fall colors are starting to warn of the upcoming winter. For the past three consecutive years, my cumulative experience is best described as Cupsogue Yeauhh!

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ABOUT ROBERT BAKER

I have been shooting for $$ since 2000 opening my shop with a Nikon D1.  I am primarily interested in shooting adventure lifestyle and travel with a host of my  day-to-day clients being within the industrial sector.

Many of my editorial stock photos have been published in all major news outlets, with my primary focus is distributing my images on a client-by-client basis to ensure their branding is unique and compelling.

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