Bay Paddle 2021: Paddling to Protect the Chesapeake Bay
by Chris Hopkinson
On September 26th, 2020 I became the 1st person to SUP all 200+ miles of the Chesapeake Bay.
I had no dreams, goals or a bucket list ambition about paddling the Bay. In fact, I’m not even a great paddler.
I learned, through a science project with my then 12-year-old daughter, that a single adult oyster can filter 50 gallons of water per day! And that the Chesapeake’s oyster population is down 99%.
You can imagine the impact the oyster reduction has had on the health of the Bay.
I decided the best thing I could do was draw attention to the importance of oysters by SUPing all 200+ miles of Bay and helping raise money for Oyster Recovery Partnership.
I was told I was crazy, I’m 47 and wake up injured, so I’m not exactly in my prime. I was told to prepare my concession speech. I was told I’d done enough even before the paddle began because of the amount of publicity and the $180k+ in donations.
I ignored all of it and set out on my first leg of the paddle on September 18th, 2020 in Havre de Grace, MD, where the Chesapeake Bay starts. I experienced winds of 15+ knots, swells of 2-4 feet and a twenty degree drop in air temperatures. And that was day 1!
I fought through that day and 8 more like it. I experienced more wind and waves, sunburn and hypothermia, physical and mental exhaustion.
I also experienced paddling with bald eagles. The Bay is filled with them. I saw spectacular sunrises and sunsets. I paddled in remote areas and felt like an explorer discovering uncharted areas.
And to top it all off, a pod of dolphins breached the water, jumped around and then dove under my board less than a mile from the finish!
It was a journey I’ll never forget and something I want others to experience.
Join us for the 2021 Bay Paddle!
I decided soon after to bring the Bay Paddle back, only this time as an epic, 200+ mile team relay.
Teams from all over are forming now to embark on this incredible journey to help support the Bay. There's no registration fee, paddlers instead have to raise $1,000, all of which goes to help Oyster Recovery Partnership and Chesapeake Conservancy protect the Chesapeake Bay.
In addition to Oyster Recovery, this year’s paddle will also help support Chesapeake Conservancy’s work to designate the Bay as a National Park.
Staff from the Conservancy and Oyster Recovery have created a team and will be paddling along.
A team of local teachers, veterans from the Valhalla Sailing Project, a group of local River Keepers and more are joining the fun.
To join a team, create a team, support or learn more go to baypaddle.org
What: The 1st ever Chesapeake Bay Paddle team relay race covering all 215 miles of the Bay. Paddlers may use standup paddle boards, outrigger canoes, ocean kayaks, etc.
When: August 27th through September 3rd, 2021 - it will be a stage race over 8 days with designated start and finish cutoff times each day.
Where: Havre de Grace, MD to Virginia Beach along the Eastern Shore. View course map at baypaddle.org.
Why: The race will benefit Chesapeake Conservancy’s efforts to designate the Chesapeake Bay as a National Park and Oyster Recovery Partnership’s work to plant 10 billion oysters in the Bay
How: Only 10-20 teams of 1-8 paddlers will be invited to participate in this first ever team paddle race.
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