Chris Hopkinson graduated from Severn in 1992 and has since founded his organization, Bay Paddle, in hopes of bringing awareness and raising money for oyster recovery in the Chesapeake Bay. I had the pleasure of interviewing him this. past week to learn more about his efforts and time at Severn.
Mr. Hopkinson recently stand up paddled the entire length of the Chesapeake Bay this past September to bring attention to and raise money for his cause. Chris’s inspiration came from his daughter’s science project, which led them to do an experiment, observing the effect that oysters have in filtering water. Chris and his daughter observed a tank filled with Magothy River water and oysters and found that in just 4 hours, the oysters had filtered the water enough to see your hand on the other side. With the Chesapeake Bay’s oyster population being down 99%, Chris was inspired to find a way to put oysters back in the bay.
Mr. Hopkinson embarked on a 9-day, 240-mile journey across the length of the bay to raise money to replace oysters in the bay. The Bay Paddle organization has since raised nearly $183,000 and replaced 11 million oysters. Mr. Hopkinson trained for about a year before the actual event and dedicate himself 100% to the cause by changing his exercise routine, diet, sleep schedule, and more. When met with difficult weather and bay conditions during the actual paddle, a serious physical and mental toll was weighing on Chris’ mind. Mr Hopkinson expressed his frustrations from the 7th day of his 9-day paddle as being one of the hardest because due to the conditions of the weather and his physical ability, he was unable to complete the amount they were supposed to. He stated, “After having a day where after six days of getting where I needed to be and by the seventh, just not being able to make it, it was really deflating.” The frustrations of the seventh day were soon overcome by the bay’s beauty and his overwhelming support on the last two days.
About one mile from the very end of his journey, Chris encountered a pod of dolphins that had swam around his board to breach the surface that reassured his faith and determination to not only finish the paddle, but to enjoy the moment and its beauty. Chris stated that he was inspired because, “There were times when I was out there on the water, that I would just sit back and look around and try to suck it all in and enjoy what I was experiencing because it was hard from a physical standpoint and it was hard mentally and it was painful, but I was also seeing places that I had never seen before and that most people would never get to see.”
Not only was Chris inspired and motivated by the beauty of the bay, but he was also met with overwhelming support from the Severn community. One day of his journey, a few members of the Severn community, included some from his graduating class, met Chris on the water in support and encouragement. Not only had he heard from nearly 20 members of his class, but he was also joined by paddle board for a portion of his journey by Dr. Milford Marchant. Mr. Hopkinson was amazed by the support from the Severn community and mentioned that it was one of the most special parts of the school.
Mr. Hopkinson values the connections and friendships that he made at Severn that have now lasted nearly 30 years. Chris stated, “Somehow, someway, that Severn community always stays with you no matter what and I was hearing from people who I hadn’t heard from since my days at Severn.” Chris mentioned that architecturally, Severn is vastly different now compared to when he attended, but he noted that “none of that really mattered because it was all about the people, the teachers, the faculty, the kids, and the parents that really made the Severn community.” He also expressed his admiration for the areas of Severna Park, Annapolis, and Arnold as being a great place to live and grow up and make and maintain lasting connections.
The final piece of advice that Mr. Hopkinson would give to current Severn students is to essentially make a “moon-shot” goal and become part of that goal. He is a firm believer in going all in and dedicating yourself 100% to your ambition. He used this concept in his bay paddle and encourages Severn students to achieve their goals in a similar fashion.