Six of these outrigger canoes will take on the Bay Paddle next weekend. Boaters can spectate and join the after party, too. Photo: Bay Paddle

Bay Paddle Returns to Raise Money for the Bay; Plans Rockin’ After Party in Rock Hall

The first known person to paddle the entire Chesapeake Bay from Havre de Grace to Cape Charles on a standup paddleboard is putting on a new version of the Bay Paddle this year and it comes with a great party.

Endurance paddleboarder Chris Hopkinson dreamed up the original Bay Paddle for 2020 as a way to raise money and awareness for Bay health. In the years that followed, he invited more paddlers and teams of paddlers along for the challenge and expanded the Bay nonprofits benefitting from the Bay Paddle.

Now in 2023, paddlers with all manner of small craft will descend on Rock Hall, Maryland. The event, held Saturday and Sunday July 22-23, includes a 24-mile out-and-back course to the Bay Bridge, a 12-mile trip down the Eastern Shore and back up to Rock Hall (both on Saturday), and a special guided nature paddle on Sunday with environmental educator Bryan Gomes from CoreShark H20 .

The races will be a sight to see on the Bay next weekend: paddlecraft participating include several standup paddleboards, kayaks, surf skis (think of a sportier, sit-on-top style kayak) and outrigger canoes.

Notably, a total of six 6-person outrigger canoes will be joining the event and they’ll be doing something you can’t see anywhere else on the East Coast. Teams will compete in a change race, which means six paddlers begin the race, with three substitute paddlers in a launch waiting to take over. The three subs jump out of the launch and into the water ahead of the canoe. They swim to grab hold of the canoe, and climb in just as three paddlers jump out of the canoe into the water. The canoe never stops moving during the changeout. You can see an example of this incredible maneuver in this video.

Boaters are encouraged to come out to spectate and cheer on the paddlers (the outriggers canoes begin at 9 a.m. and are expected to reach the Bay Bridge between 10:30 and 11:30) and anyone can join the post-paddle party 2-7 p.m. at Haven Harbour South, sponsored by Tito’s vodka and Pacifico beer with food trucks on hand.

It’s not too late to sign up for any of the paddle events and the after party is free. Proceeds from alcohol sales will be donated to the Bay Paddle’s beneficiaries.

-Meg Walburn Viviano