Chris Hopkinson, a 46-year old Arnold resident, completed a 200-plus mile journey to Virginia atop a stand up paddle board Saturday in his effort to bring awareness to and raise funds for the Oyster Recovery Partnership.
“I feel pretty good, all things considered, I think I’m pretty relieved at this point and it’s kind of weird not padding every day, I was so use to that routine,” Hopkinson said Tuesday.
Hopkinson’s nine-day journey started in Havre de Grace on Sept. 18. The trip was rough, starting day one.
“We picked a really tough week,” Hopkinson said. “Looking at the conditions the last couple days, obviously the wind has died down, the water looks flat. We had none of that for probably six of the nine days. It was just really, steady 10- to 15-plus knot winds and 1-3 foot swells. That’s what makes the bay the bay.”
Despite the issues, Hopkinson still made it to Virginia Beach on Saturday. Hopkinson says the conditions can be really challenging and he figures that’s why no one had paddle boarded it before.
“It’s not an easy task,” he said. “I was expecting over the course of nine days, I was expecting to have some really difficult days. I didn’t think it would be like five straight days, so it was definitely tough conditions.”
Regardless, Hopkinson pressed on and finished what he started. “I think what made it work for me was, honestly, all the folks around me,” Hopkinson said. “I had boat support, we had over 20 boats, usually two to three boats per day, with really friends of mine. They were super encouraging on the water, my family got on the water. I had a couple buddies join me paddling a couple days. It seemed like those guys came in on the days I needed that extra boost the most.”
Hopkinson also says he got uplifted by social media.
“I got hundreds of texts, emails and social media posts from people I hadn’t talked to in 20-plus years. Childhood friends, high school friend, college friends, friends from our neighborhood, people I know really well, people I don’t know at all,” Hopkinson said. “Always like, you got this, keep going, we’re all behind you. That was the difference, really had very little to do with me, I felt everybody’s support and encouragement. I mean I literally felt it and there was just no way I was going to let those folks down.”
Then there’s the purpose of the trip. “I think we’re closing in on $180,000, which is awesome and we’re not done,” he said.
The trip, Hopkinson’s idea, was his way to help the Chesapeake Bay. The goal was to raise $200,000 toward oyster recovery in the bay.
Oyster recovery T-shirts by Salt Life will have all proceeds going back to oyster recovery. There’s a short documentary, under an hour, that will be out hopefully by the end of the year as a filmmaker followed Hopkinson’s travels. Hopkinson said there will be other promotions coming too.
“I think we’ll surpass the $200,000 before the end of the year for sure,” he said.
For anyone wondering if Hopkinson fell in the water — he did and often.
“Eight times a day at least, I was getting beaten up badly,” Hopkinson said. “The first day I probably fell in close to 20 times. I started in Havre de Grace and the conditions were the worst on day one. It was like 15-plus knot wins, three-foot waves. Literally just got thrown down and across the bay to Rock Hall. I was completely beaten up.”
So, will Hopkinson take on another paddle board trip in the future?
“I think there’s two things, one is I’m going to try to create a long distance, like 30 miles or under, paddle event on the bay every year that will probably follow one of the nine days I completed,” Hopkinson said. “That will be an event and race to benefit Oyster Recovery every year in the bay and that event you could be on a outrigger, ocean kayak, kayak, whatever. You don’t have to do a standup paddle board.”
And number two?
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“I’m now trying to think, is this who I am now, the guy that goes around and paddles long distances to support other causes? Maybe, I don’t know,” he said. “I have found another one that I’m interested in exploring, but I have to get in touch with the right group to make it happen. So, I guess the answer is yes, there will be something that benefits the bay every year and yes I’m looking at other ways to do something similar in other areas to benefit other environmental organizations for sure."