The Missouri American Water 340 (MR340) is more than just another challenging paddle race. The roaring heat, heavy humidity, and 340 miles of paddling in 88 hours sound like a recipe for disaster. Or, failure. But don’t tell that to Alex Linnell. The guy that first standup paddled the entire Mississippi River (and set a world record in the process) is joining the ranks of ultra marathon paddler Shane Perrin, the first to conquer the arduous MR340 on SUP. Come July 23, Linnell, a couple other SUPs, at most, and a field of sit-down paddlers will take to the water in Kansas City for the start of the MR340. —Shari Coble
SUP mag: Tell us about the MR340.
Linnell: The MR340 is a 340-mile paddle race across the entire state of Missouri that you have to complete within 88 hours. It’s a race with 500-plus competitors that may or may not complete the entire race due to its difficulties. It’s an extremely difficult race, both mentally and physically, but I am very excited to take on the challenge.
SUP mag: Any reason for deciding on this specific race?
Linnell: This race is another personal challenge. I have a love for long distance expedition paddling and SUP racing, so this was the perfect mix. I also have a line of expedition SUPs that will be coming out next year.
Have you talked to MR340 veteran Shane Perrin about the race?
Linnell: We were hoping to connect over his radio show, but with my busy race schedule and business it’s been hard to connect. I haven't been able to get any tips, but after my world record-setting trip down the length of the Mississippi River, I’m confident in my strong understanding of what it takes to paddle long distances efficiently.
SUP mag: This isn’t a typical SUP event. What competition will you have?
Linnell: It’s a race dominated by canoes, kayaks, etc., at this point, but I'm excited to help grow the SUP class. I know of at least one other standup paddler participating, but the name wasn't familiar.
What kind of mental and physical training have you been doing for the event?
Linnell: Much of the mental endurance will come from my previous experience with the Mississippi River and my continued efforts in SUP racing. As far as physical training, I grew up just blocks from the Mississippi River and I recently moved to the largest lake in the twin cities area so I train daily on both the river and Lake Minnetonka.
SUP mag: Do you have any expectations?
Linnell: My main focus is to complete this race quickly and safely. I was determined to be the first of three individuals all trying to paddle the length of the Mississippi and I accomplished that. I look to do the same in this race.
SUP mag: How are the conditions looking?
Linnell: I’m not sure on what the weather will be like two weeks out, but I'll be prepared for the worst. As far as temperatures, it is likely to be HOT! I believe the currents are a bit slow in comparison to the last couple of years, at around 3mph if I read correctly.
What gear will you be using?
Linnell: I’ll be riding a 14′ board I recently designed with Rave Sports, with no more than two dry bags [for gear]. I don't have any crazy gadgets, but plan to have the usual solar panels, GPS, etc. I plan to keep things as simple as possible.
How do you think your experience paddling down the Mississippi will play a part in this race?
Linnell: I think it will help immensely! It gives me tremendous mental confidence knowing I completed that kind of distance (over 2323 miles). The Mississippi River gave me great experience in dangerous situations, navigation, packing, food supply, etc.
I jumped on the Mississippi River back in 2011 without a day of water training (due to Minnesota's winter) and only one SUP race under my belt. What I'm trying to say is, it’s to easy to make excuses as to why you shouldn't do something, but sometimes you just have to get out and do it, and learn as you go. I’ve since participated in many SUP races and believe every race or expedition teaches me something new, and I continue to refine my skills.
SUP mag: Do you have prior experience in ultra marathon races like this?
Linnell: Outside of paddling the Mississippi, I have no other experience with anything the length of an ultra marathon. But I also had never run more than a few miles in my life before staring the Mississippi River expedition and that didn't stop me.
SUP mag: What do you hope to take away from the experience?
Linnell: I just hope to have a blast. I hope to push myself past limits I didn't know I had. And I look forward to getting back on a river and, in a way, reliving a bit of my Mississippi River experience.
What do you think competing in events like the MR340 does for the sport of SUP?
Linnell: I believe standup paddling will become the most popular paddle sport in the world, surpassing both canoeing and kayaking. Participation in events like the MR340 will continue to build the credibility of standup paddling, solidifying its presence in the paddle community. I look to continue to push the limits of standup paddling with plans to reset the distance record in the coming years.