NESN TV show spotlights surfing, fishing, and more.
HAMPTON – Tom Richardson discovers there’s more to Hampton Beach than sunbathing and bars. You just have to go get it.
Richardson, the host of the “Explore New England” show, has been surfing with Cinnamon Rainbows, on a charter boat with Al Gauron’s Deep Sea Fishing and is preparing to hit the swamp this month with Hampton Beach Parasail and Paddleboard. The footage will appear in an episode of the show to air in October on NESN, showcasing Hampton Beach’s outdoor recreation options.
“There’s a natural side to Hampton Beach,” said Richardson, who is currently wrapping up the third season of “Explore New England.” New episodes will air on NESN Sunday mornings at 9 a.m. starting October 2. The Hampton Beach episode is scheduled for October 30.
The episode was funded by the Hampton Area Chamber of Commerce and the Village of Hampton Beach District, which worked with a state grant program to cover the roughly $15,000 cost, according to the chamber president, John Nyhan. The chamber and village district shared $7,500, which was later matched by the state grant.
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Richardson, who was previously editor of outdoor magazine Saltwater Sportsman, launched “Explore New England” in 2017 with a focus on year-round outdoor recreation. He said he works with experienced cameramen who use high-end equipment, including drones, to make his episodes look as good as possible.
Richardson buys time on NESN to air his content for half-hour blocks, and the show also gets repeat airtime on Mondays at 6:30 p.m. and on NESN+. On YouTube, episodes of the show have been viewed up to 27,000 times.
Richardson contacted Nyhan at the chamber to present Hampton Beach and generated great interest.
“A lot of people think it’s just a nightlife spot or a place to hang out at the beach and party,” Richardson said. “They (the chamber and the village district) wanted to make sure other people were aware that there were natural things to do.”
Show another side of Hampton Beach
Nyhan said he hopes the investment will help attract day trippers. While the beach has seen strong hotel bookings and a boost from returning Canadian tourists, he said families coming down for the day seem to be missing this year.
“You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to see that on a Friday, Saturday, Sunday, you can drive down Ashworth Avenue, turn around, walk down Ocean Boulevard (with no traffic),” Nyhan said. “It was very noticeable.”
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Nyhan hopes the recreation spotlight will remind people of just how many things to do in Hampton Beach are overshadowed by attractions like the casino ballroom or the many restaurants. He said the plan is to air the episode in October so tourists can see what the beach has to offer and get excited for Hampton in 2023.
“We saw this as a great opportunity to sell Hampton and all that we have to offer,” Nyhan said.
The show will also feature Hampton Beach State Park, which operates a popular RV park at the south end of the beach. In North Beach, Richardson got up on the surfboard with Cinnamon Rainbows owner Dave Cropper despite the very small waves. After a deep-sea fishing trip with Al Gauron’s, Richardson interviewed Angel and April Gauron Eaton, about running the family business and the challenges they faced due to federal fishing regulations.
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Reinventing Hampton Beach?
The main tourist section of the beach has seen a renaissance of improvements since the turn of the 21st century as city, state and business owners have made improvements to infrastructure, state park facilities and private properties. He has also seen some recreational activities fade over time.
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The classic Hampton Beach shooting gallery was destroyed in a fire at the Casino, while the D Street waterslide was demolished last year. The beach still has Buc’s Lagoon mini-golf, but Tom McGuirk, owner of McGuirk’s Ocean View, said he remembers when the beach had a bowling alley, two different movie theaters and a mini- golf at the Casino.
McGuirk said promoting outdoor recreation showcases a small part of what Hampton has to offer.
He said Hampton is historically a blue-collar vacation beach known for its carnival atmosphere. He said the beach still needs more family activities, and he thinks activities like stand-up paddleboarding could be more for individuals and people in their 20s and 30s.
“We broadcast two different vibrations on ourselves. We are not the healthiest place on the planet. We are definitely not Santa Monica,” McGuirk said. “The marketing for this type of stuff is great and all, but it really goes against our brand.”
Craig Shreck said that’s not what he’s seen running his parasailing and paddleboarding business in Hampton Beach for the past 10 years. He said grandparents will come prepared to watch their young family members go up on a daring parasailing adventure, only to find the journey is smooth enough and doesn’t require getting wet. He said the chamber’s promotional work shows tourists they have options if they want to take a break from ice cold drinks or lie in the sun.
“It’s a different way to see the Seacoast,” Shreck said.