Photo by Chris Mantz / Photos on the Fly, Courtesy of Rivertowns SUP & Yoga.
This October, dozens of paddleboarders in magical regalia make their way down the river just in time for Halloween festivities.
There are very few geographic locations in the world that are as synonymous with Halloween as the storied town of Sleepy Hollow. Transforming from quaint rivertown to larger-than-life legend when the calendar hits October 1st, the sight of witches appearing in the distance, almost floating on water, wouldn’t be something anyone would scratch their head at. For Rivertowns SUP (Stand Up Paddleboarding) & Yoga owner Tara Scheller, the very first SUP Witches in 2020 was spontaneous — and totally necessary. “I had seen an event like this in other places and I thought, ‘How can I live in Sleepy Hollow and not do a witch paddle?’ Within two weeks of putting it out there, we had 16 people signed up.”
“I had seen an event like this in other places and I thought, ‘How can I live in Sleepy Hollow and not do a witch paddle?’”
The event has since grown, not only becoming an all-out festival, but a day people anticipate all year. After the second annual event, Scheller had a moment back on land, as she looked around at the near quadrupled number of participants from the year before — she knew this had the potential to be much more. And who could deny the cosmic energy that comes from being in Sleepy Hollow during the fall? “A lot of what I do is try to do things for the community and just bring people together who love to be on the water,” says Scheller. “The idea of witches on the water, people really connect with.” Now, instead of suiting up, paddling down the Hudson, and turning around at the lighthouse, Schellers’ vision has bloomed into a festival with food trucks, vendors, and a live telling of the Legend of Sleepy Hollow after the paddleboarding witches return to shore.
While the day is full of whimsy, the Hudson River can get cranky with its currents. Scheller recommends some paddleboarding experience before you don your best black ‘fit, at least enough that you’re comfortable out on the water. Witches are also encouraged to bring their own gear, as rentals are limited.
For Scheller, the day is more than a supernatural-themed jaunt — it’s a celebration of the power of kinship. “I always have this moment on the water where I usually start the launch. I’m one of the first people out and then that moment that I turn around and see everyone on the water behind me is just so surreal. There’s such a sense of togetherness.”