Joel Ford, Scott Miller, Adam Macht and Perry Whitaker of Mississippi Speed Record prepare to train. They are currently trying to set the record for fastest trip down the Mississippi River.
by ALEXANDRA RETTER
The Mississippi River holds a mighty place in American lore. In vessels made in Winona, two canoeing teams aim to become part of the river’s history. One team of canoeists set a preliminary new record for fastest trip down the Mississippi on Monday, and another is close behind.
On May 10, the four paddlers of MMZero set a tentative new Guinness World Record of 17 days, 20 hours.
The previous record of 18 days, 4 hours and 51 minutes was set in 2003.
The four canoeists of Mississippi Speed Record are currently on the river trying to break the new record. They began their attempt on May 4, at Lake Itasca, Minn., and are about 5 hours and 15 minutes behind the new preliminary record, as of press time. Mississippi Speed Record Media Coordinator Todd Foster said he is feeling good about the team’s progress. “It’s great for them to be out on the water and see they can do it,” he said. He added, “It’s good to see they’re this close and not completely out of the attempt yet.”
They went through Winona and are heading to cities such as Hannibal, Mo., and Baton Rouge, La., before reaching the Gulf of Mexico.
In a statement, Mississippi Speed Record Team Captain Scott Miller said, “I can’t wait to be in the world of the river for over two weeks non-stop. I love looking at the sky, the water, the light, the clouds, the trees, the boats and the cities — they are all ever-changing and fascinating.”
He continued, “The qualities you need to have to do this are a love of canoeing, teamwork, training, planning and most of all the ability and desire to stick with something 24 hours a day for over two weeks.”
Though it was difficult to coordinate sleep schedules initially, Foster said, team members have taken to sleeping in the canoe and started to really get into a groove. Support team members have been wonderful about making sure the paddlers get the food and rest they need on shore, as well, he said.
Apart from the obstacles accompanying the intense physical demands of paddling down the entire Mississippi quickly for days on end, Miller would consider the biggest challenge of the attempt to be deciding to make it in the first place, Miller’s friend Foster said, and would hope people would be inspired to take the first step toward accomplishing their own goals by deciding to pursue them.
There are also valuable experiences outside of potentially setting the record that go along with making the attempt. The team members are happy to see communities gather because of the record attempt, Foster said. “They love that they’re bringing communities together all up and down the river,” he said. Community members have brought support team members snacks and cheered the canoeists on from bridges with cowbells. Students have followed the trip online and then stopped by the river to see the team members go by.
When the teams went through Winona, they did so in local canoes. Wenonah Canoe North American Sales Manager Michael Looman said it is meaningful to see the canoes used to their fullest potential as part of the tentative record setting and record attempt. “It’s a sense of pride for the brand,” he said.
Planning for Mississippi Speed Record’s attempt started in 2018. Team members trained individually on a daily basis and also took part in many multi-day trainings on the river.
MMZero was not immediately available for comment.