Participants take on a leg of the 2021 Bay Paddke. Photo: Bay Paddle/Facebook

Bay Paddle Returns, Drawing SUP Pros to Eastern Shore

You may remember the Bay Paddle from 2020, when one man attempted to be the first to travel the entire length of the Chesapeake Bay on a standup paddleboard. Not only did Chris Hopkinson succeed in making history, he turned the Bay Paddle into an annual event. The 2022 iteration runs this weekend from Rock Hall to Cambridge, Md.

Each year, the event has picked up an additional Chesapeake Bay charity to support through fundraising and awareness. In 2020, Hopkinson’s Bay Paddle effort raised money for the Oyster Recovery Partnership (ORP). In 2021, the paddle returned as a team relay benefitting both ORP and Chesapeake Conservancy, in its campaign to have the Bay designated as a National Recreation Area. The Bay Paddle has already generated over $330,000 in charitable donations.

In 2022, the Bay Paddle supports ORP, the Conservancy, and has also added WaterKeepers Chesapeake, a network of waterkeepers across the Bay region working to keep waterways clean.

The paddle begins Saturday, Aug. 27 as a 45-mile, two-day staged race. Some paddlers will split the distance with a team, while nearly two dozen will take on the full 45 miles solo. Several professional paddleboarders are competing, along with participants from as far away as Mexico and Canada. The sponsors are also international this year and include Tito’s Handmade Vodka, Pacifico, and offshore wind developer Ørsted. 

More than 100 paddlers are expected, using small craft ranging from standup paddleboards and kayaks to less common outriggers or surf skis. They will start from Haven Harbour South in Rock Hall at 9 a.m. Saturday. The first day of the race goes 30 miles from Rock Hall to Tilghman Island. Bright and early Sunday morning, paddlers will launch from Tilghman Island and finish in Cambridge, another 30-mile leg. A post-race party in downtown Cambridge kicks off at 3 p.m.

The best ways to spectate Saturday will be at the start in Rock Hall (if you’re an early riser—the race takes off at 7:30 a.m.), passing through the midpoint at Kent Narrows (either at Kent Island Yacht Club or Red Eyes between 10:30 and noon), or near the finish from Knapps Narrows Marina, the Tilghman Island bridge or the Dogwood Harbor boat ramp. On Sunday, the best opportunities to watch will be from Dogwood Harbor for the 7:30 a.m. launch, or near the finish at Gerry Boyle Park in Cambridge.

Anyone who would like to donate to the Bay Paddle and its three Bay nonprofit beneficiaries, click here.

-Meg Walburn Viviano