BJ's canoe races 2017

Participants compete in heats during BJ’s on the Water's 38th annual canoe races, last year. Forty teams battled as hundreds of spectators watched the action from the deck of the 75th Street restaurant. This year’s event is scheduled for Tuesday, July 17. 

Annual event, now in 39th year, in bay behind 75th Street restaurant, July 17

(July 13, 2018) Practice your paddling skills for BJ’s on the Water’s annual Canoe Races, which returns for the 39th year to the 75th Street restaurant on Tuesday, July 17.

“We wanted to do something to involve all the bars and restaurants that were in existence [back] then,” said Maddy Carder, co-owner of BJ’s on the Water with her husband, Billy. “We looked out and we saw the island that we were blessed with in front of our property. My husband, Billy, came up with the idea of the canoe race.

“It’s what a lot of locals, bars, restaurants and other businesses like to consider a day to be in fun competition with each other,” she added.

Registration will begin at 10 a.m. on Tuesday with the races starting an hour later. The cost is $50 for a team of four, consisting of two women and two men. In addition, participants must be 21 or older with a valid ID and wear closed-toe shoes.

“The tide is always bringing different things into this area, so we don’t really know what’s on the bottom of our bay, so [participants] have to have closed-toe shoes,” Carder said. “They don’t have to do anything but just show up with their IDs and closed-toed shoes, and they’re ready to go.”

The restaurant will provide the canoes, paddles and life jackets for the event. Participants can only register the day of the event.

“There is no preregistration because I need IDs,” Carder said. “We [will] have security checking IDs.”

The races kick off at 11 a.m. when the first man and woman teams will paddle around the island behind the restaurant, come back and tag their teammates, who will then hop into the canoe and complete the same half-mile route.

“The fun thing about the race is nobody really knows how to paddle a canoe,” Carder said. “It’s a spectator sport. I feel like we have a lot more spectators than we have teams because it is just such a blast to watch. And we do recordings, so even if you’re inside it’s on our televisions so you don’t even have to go outside to watch if you don’t want to.

“It’s a fun day. They all take it seriously in a way – they have different crazy names and different outfits. They like to get dressed for the event,” she continued. “You never know what they’re going to dress up like or what the names are going to be, but they’re highly creative.”

Races will run until 4 p.m. Last year, 46 teams participated.

More than one team can represent a business, organization or restaurant. According to Carder, Seacrets has several teams competing each year.

“It’s not just for the bars and restaurants,” Carder said. “We can be open to families, it can be open to any other businesses.”

The top three teams will win a trophy and cash prizes. The first-place team will have their names engraved on the official canoe race trophy along with the previous 38 winners and take home $600 and bragging rights. The trophy will remain on display at BJ’s. The second-place team will receive $400 and the third-place group will win $300.

Each participant will also receive a souvenir T-shirt. They have become collector’s items over the years, Carder said.

Last year, YogaVibez won the competition. Embers’ “Embers Crew Chiefs” came in second and Blu Crabhouse’s “Blu Crews” finished in third.

“We always like to say ‘Don’t go out to dinner in Ocean City that night, you don’t know who’s going to be waiting on you because everyone’s having such a good time,’” Carder said. “We [tell participants to] ask off for that day.”

Participants are also asked to abstain from wearing glitter as part of their costumes, because it washes off in the bay and can cause environmental issues and interfere with the wildfowl sanctuary BJ’s on the Water has been building up for 38 years.

No ducks will be fed during the duration of the races, an event held daily at 1 p.m.

“The ducks get out of here for the day … it’s the only day they don’t get fed,” Carder said. “We feed them 364 days a year at 1 p.m. but on Canoe Race days they won’t be fed.”

Drink and food specials will be offered throughout the day.

“For years we have guys and girls that have worked in Ocean City – we date back to 1979 – now we have their kids doing it,” Carder said. “It’s generations that remember how much fun it is and we have a lot of kids that used to work for us come and watch [as well].

“The first canoes were blow up rubber canoes,” she continued. “It has evolved since then into what we like to say [is one of] the longest running consecutive parties in Ocean City.”

Every year, the date of the Canoe Race is determined according to the highest tide in July to make sure the bay has enough water to last five hours of racing. For more information, call BJ’s on the Water at 410-524-7575.

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