They jokingly have referred to themselves as the Crazy Oyster Ladies. Their passions for the water, the environment, and their community are all rooted in oysters. But Linda Hamm and Claire Neubert, co-founders of Shored Up in Hampton, Virginia, are far from crazy. This dynamic duo is movin’ and shakin’. The work that they do is reaching thousands of people in coastal Virginia, inspiring all generations to become stewards of our waterways.
It all started back in 2006 when Claire began oyster gardening from her home on the Hampton River. She enjoyed it so much that she decided to take her environmental stewardship to another level, and she became a Clean Water Captain through the Chesapeake Bay Foundation. Meanwhile, Claire’s neighbor and good friend Linda, was becoming increasingly interested in Claire’s oyster gardening and frequently assisted her in maintaining the oysters. Together, they found themselves talking to just about anyone that would listen, about the benefits of oyster gardening and what the process entails.
As their enthusiasm for educating others grew, so did their ideas. Linda became a Clean Water Captain. Claire decided to enroll in the Virginia Certified Ecotour Guide course. Linda helped Claire to develop a mock tour for the course, and had so much fun that she, too, enrolled in the next offering of the course. After they both became certified ecotour guides, Claire and Linda were inspired to start offering more formalized experiences. One thing led to another, and Shored Up, LLC was formed.
They expanded the oyster gardening operation to a public dock in downtown Hampton where they frequently found themselves chatting with people walking by, and teaching just about anyone they came in contact with, about their oyster gardening efforts. Sometimes those people were locals, and sometimes they were international visitors. At times, Claire and Linda’s stewardship was literally being communicated across the world.
Shored Up offers a variety of land and water-based experiences in and around the City of Hampton. From kayak tours and custom oyster roasts, to oyster-based foodie experiences, and historical walking tours, Linda and Claire have something to pique just about anyone’s interest. Their biggest passion is working with schools. They’ll bring their oyster show on the road, into any classroom, to educate the next generation of environmental stewards.
“When we have the young kids in our crowd and the kids have a shell in their hand, you just know that’s the next generation,” Linda explains. “We love making those connections and planting those seeds of stewardship in hopes that what we’re doing is for the next generation. If we don’t have enough of us to do that, we’re really a lost community.”
Shored Up has been lucky to offer some of their programming at no charge, thanks to a generous grant through the Chesapeake Oyster Alliance and the Chesapeake Bay Trust. Their Hampton Oyster Paddles, where they educate people about the history, heritage, and seafood industry of downtown Hampton, have been running on a waiting list (not to mention, it ends with a local brew!). To learn more about their Hampton Oyster Paddles, visit this blog post.
Last year, the grant helped fund the inaugural SHELLabration, a large, family-friendly event at The Docks at Downtown Hampton. Although it was an incredibly cold day for mid-November, Many different organizations and businesses came together under Shored Up’s vision and direction to create an event full of bay themed-exhibits, kids activities, live music, and oyster shucking and gardening demonstrations.
“I love the synergy that happens when we can work with other members of our community and other organizations,” Claire says. “To me, I love seeing the connections. On a personal level, and on a professional level, and on a community level. I like seeing what can happen when we get people pulled together.”
Over 500 people were in attendance at last year’s SHELLabration! The day was so successful, that when asked by visitors if they would be having it again, without hesitation, Linda and Claire said “YES!” This year’s SHELLabration will be held on Saturday, November 18 from 12-4 p.m.
But before the next SHELLabration even happens, Shored Up is launching a NEW event this fall: The Hampton Oyster Soup Tasting (or as they refer to it, “HOST”). Taking place on Saturday, November 4, restaurants from all over the Hampton region will be participating in the competition. Judges will be shuttled around town to each restaurant, including a stop with the Phoebus High School culinary arts program! This event will certainly stir up interest, both with locals and visitors, to try oyster dishes all around town. It will also highlight those restaurants that participate in the Virginia Oyster Shell Recycling Program.
While you should now have November 4 and 18 both marked on your calendar, Linda and Claire are always eager to host experiences throughout the year. If you’re looking for an in-classroom program, a foodie tour for your social club, or some added oyster pizazz to your next family gathering, send a message to Shored Up, and see what kinds of adventures you can create with this team
Shored Up isn’t just a tourism business. In some ways, it’s a way of life for Claire and Linda. When they’re together, these women have an energy that is contagious. The work they are doing is “shoring up” their community, their waterways, and even themselves.
Learn more about Linda and Claire’s work at shoredupva.com.
About the Author: Laura Scharle lives on the Eastern shore of Maryland and is a frequent paddler in coastal Virginia. She is a Virginia certified ecotour guide and is an independent marketing contractor with a focus in ecotourism and heritage tourism. Laura can be reached through our Eastern Shore ecotour guide listings.