Paddlers get an up-close experience with naval history. Photo: Friends of the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard Museum

Portsmouth Paddle Battle Sends Racers Between Aircraft Carriers

On September 10, the Portsmouth Paddle Battle returns to downtown Portsmouth. The unique competition offers paddlers of all ages and skill levels the chance to race along the Portsmouth waterfront, among aircraft carriers and other large vessels docked there. The race benefits the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard Museum. 

The shipyard that is home to the museum is officially called the Norfolk Naval Shipyard. It is the U.S. Navy’s oldest shipyard, and actually predates the Navy. It is home to the oldest drydock in the country, and even built the first flight deck, eventually leading up to the aircraft carriers we have today.   

The  event is a fundraiser organized by Friends of the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard Museum to benefit the museum, which is located adjacent to the event at 2 High Street. The museum opened in 1950, displaying artifacts from the shipyard and the vessels that have been built (or have sunk) at the shipyard. Popular items include armor plates and other artifacts from the CSS Virginia. The Virginia is best known for its famous battle with the USS Monitor on March 9, 1862. 

The paddle starts at the High Street Basin, in the middle of downtown.  Participants will paddle kayaks and paddleboards upriver by the shipyard. At the hammerhead crane, paddlers will make an about face and return to the starting point. You can’t miss the hammerhead crane, an appropriately named local landmark that used to hoist main gun turrets from battleships in World War II.

There will be categories for beginning to intermediate paddlers, and for the more experienced. You must be 15 to participate, but there is no upper age limit. Paddlers are divided into age categories. Basic registration starts at $35. A few loaner kayaks will be available on a first-come-first-served basis.   

Not a paddler? No problem. There will be food, adult beverages, and live music beginning at 10 in the morning. There will be activities for children including face painting and re-enactors. The awards ceremony takes place at 3:15.

This is a great way to support the museum and have some fun on the water.  To learn more and register, go to   

-Kendall Osborne