Annapolis native Chris Hopkinson became the first person to paddleboard the entire Chesapeake Bay on Saturday, September 26th after a nine-day, 203-mile journey from Havre de Grace, Maryland to Fisherman’s Inlet in Virginia. Through this effort, Bay Paddle, presented by Flying Dog Brewery, Hopkinson has so far raised $177,000 for the Oyster Recovery Partnership (ORP) to plant oysters in the Chesapeake Bay.
“I am truly overwhelmed by the response to the Bay Paddle,” said Hopkinson. “The most emotional part wasn’t finishing, or any one stage or day, it was the amount of support and encouragement from our entire community. I received hundreds of messages per day from people all across the nation cheering me on and pushing me through, which is really what helped me finish.”
Hopkinson launched from Concord Point Lighthouse in Havre de Grace Sept. 18 at 8:09 a.m. and reached the Atlantic Ocean at 2:40 p.m. on Sept. 26, following the route that mirrors that of Captain John Smith when he set out to explore the Chesapeake Bay in 1608.
Hopkinson, believed to be the first to stand up paddle the entire Chesapeake Bay, crossed into the Atlantic Ocean via Fisherman’s Inlet to on-water fanfare from a boat full of friends, family and supporters. Although Hopkinson arrived at his destination on schedule, wind and water conditions significantly altered his original plans to travel down the west side of the Chesapeake Bay.
With winds coming from the northeast at 10-15 knots for the majority of the paddle, Hopkinson made the difficult decision to completely reroute his travel to follow the eastern side of the Bay, affecting his access to support boats and overnight accommodations.
“We had our entire route planned out along the western shore, every access point, every overnight stay, every logistic was completely altered,” said Hopkinson. “The high northeasterly winds would have been too much to battle if I had stayed along the western side of the Bay, they would have just pushed me into shore.”
Hopkinson, chief strategy officer for a mobile communications app, became passionate about helping the Bay just a few years ago when he realized the connection between oysters and water quality after viewing an ORP oyster filtering video. Chris decided he wanted to make a difference and officially announced his plans to stand-up paddle the entire Chesapeake Bay in support of the Oyster Recovery Partnership this past July.
“Growing up I had no idea the important role oysters played in the Bay’s health,” said Hopkinson. “When I heard they filter water, create habitat, and that the population was critically low, I knew I had to help. The idea of paddling the entire Bay struck me as a way I could draw attention to this important story.”
The campaign has brought in a wealth of supporters, donations and words of encouragement for Hopkinson, who has been working hard to not only train for the paddle (up to 20 hours per week), but to seek funders, write blogs, film videos, and meet with news outlets to spread the word. His efforts have paid off, with funds coming in from 32 states and four countries.
“What Chris has accomplished is truly incredible,” said ORP Executive Director Ward Slacum. “He’s given up so much of his time, energy, and personal resources to help create a cleaner Chesapeake Bay for future generations. We’re forever grateful to Chris, the donors and the sponsors who have supported this campaign.”
In addition to ongoing support from the public, Flying Dog Brewery, Maryland’s largest brewery, is the event’s title sponsor. Flying Dog has been a longtime supporter of ORP, creating special beers and events to support the organization’s mission. Add to that, Bryan Gomes, youth educator with the nonprofit ClearSharkH2O, kayaking alongside Hopkinson providing virtual nature lessons and water quality sampling activities. Additionally, OLD BAY, the Chesapeake Bay region’s well-known and well-loved seasoning, has committed to support this endeavor.
In an effort to expand the Paddle’s impact, The Nature Conservancy partnered with ORP and Bay Paddle to help apply funds to build oyster reefs in the Virginia portion of the Chesapeake Bay.
To learn more about Bay Paddle, visit baypaddle.org.
For day-to-day recaps of the Bay Paddle, visit baypaddle.org/blog.
A $10 donation directly supports the planting of up to 1,000 juvenile oysters that will grow to provide critical habitat for underwater life and clean Bay waters. To donate, visit the website or text BAYPADDLE to 44-321.
If you missed our podcast with Chris before the paddle, have a listen: