Look up “gnarly” in the dictionary and you may find the name Alex Linnell. Linnell, a 21-year-old Minnesotan, is the first person to attempt standup paddling the entire length of the Mississippi River. The challenging journey is the standup paddler’s effort to raise money for the Red Cross and victims of this year’s Mississippi floods, as well as to promote the sport in the regionP. At about 2,400 miles in length, Linnell’s journey down the mighty Mississippi will be the longest distance ever traveled by standup paddling.
Linnell began his journey June 1st from the headwaters of Lake Itasca, Minn. The trip is anticipated to take anywhere from 60 to 90 days, depending on conditions such as water depth and current speed from spring flooding. Linnell checks in every few hours via his GPS Spot Tracker so followers can view his current location on the river and also has a blog he tries to update daily with photos and stories of his experiences.
First intrigued with SUP after his dad showed him an article on the sport, the adventurous Minnesotan admits that he would try it out when windsurfing conditions weren’t up to par. Equipped with an old windsurfing board and an oar for a paddle, Linnell grew into a standup paddler and three years later, he began the arduous journey south.
After nearly two months of long days paddling the Mississippi in scorching heat, Linnell has passed the halfway point and completed his 1,200th mile. He has made it through nine of the ten states the Mississippi flows through and is finally nearing the Gulf of Mexico. He has dodged boats, navigated through narrow stretches of river and faced harsh conditions, but that’s not enough to stop him from completing the remainder of his journey.
Linnell just recently made it through the St. Louis Harbor, the busiest of all harbors along the river and one that any sane standup paddler would not take chances venturing through. “Paddling into an area like this, you realize how insignificant you really are” the 21-year-old wrote on his website.
“Entering this towboat playground I was quickly surrounded by enormous towboats and the incredible waves they give off. As if one towboat’s waves weren’t bad enough – being surrounded by a buzzing fleet of them is overwhelming to say the least” he recounted on his blog. “One of the towboat drivers even went to the extent of calling over his loudspeaker, ‘You guys are f—ing insane!’ I don’t disagree,” Linnell wrote.
Training in his basement during Minnesota’s white winter, Linnell prepared as much as possible without being able to get on any of the state’s 10,000+ bodies of water. The first chance he had to jump on a board was in Florida this spring to race before beginning his world record-setting paddle.
The young Minnesotan will surpass the current SUP distance record of 1,808 miles, recently set by Will Rich and Mike Simpson when they paddled the Eastern Seaboard as well as Tom Jones. Linnell isn’t the only paddler that has embarked on such a mission down the Mississippi. Dave Cornthwaite has also begun charging down to the Gulf, but Linnell is still on schedule to be the first to complete the journey. –Shari Coble
For more information, visit: AlexLinnell.com