Mendota Heights Man Travels Mississippi River, Returns as Record Holder
Alex Linnell becomes the first person to complete the trip on a stand-up paddleboard (SUP).
Summer is typically for relaxation, spending time with family and enjoying a few months of warm weather.
For Mendota Heights native Alex Linnell it was a time to complete a 2,350 mile journey down the Mississippi River and raise money for the Red Cross.
On June 1Linnell set off from Lake Itasca on his stand-up paddleboard. On Aug. 9 he arrived in the Gulf of Mexico as a multiple world record holder.
“It’s obviously the coolest thing I’ve ever done,” Linnell said.
For Alex’s mom Jean, the sense of relief was huge. “Relief was certainly the strongest emotion. I’m excited for what opportunities this will bring for Alex,” she said.
It took Linnell 70 days to complete the trip. Along the way he had three rest days when he didn’t paddle at all.
“The physical and mental parts of the paddle were a big challenge," Linnell said, "but that’s part of the reason I did this. I wanted to push myself more and more as I went on."
Mission accomplished. Near the end of the trip, Linnell went 50 or more miles for six consecutive days, and two of those were 60 miles or more. On one of the final days Linnell paddled for 10 hours and 10 minutes without stopping.
All that paddling didn’t come without a price. Linnell’s body is still feeling the effects of the long journey. “My hands are still sore … and my left foot on the front pad got pretty painful for a couple of weeks.”
He also dislocated his kneecap along the way. Linnell went long boarding one evening after he had set up camp and took a nasty spill. “I’ve dislocated my kneecaps four times … I wasn’t about to let it end the trip,” said Linnell.
Beyond the physical toll, there were also the dangers that come with navigating a busy river. According to St. Louis Commerce Magazine, St. Louis, MO is the “the third largest inland river port by tonnage in the country.”
The challenges that this created were many. “The currents were crazy. The combination of that and the empty tow (boats)—those are the ones that really push water because they’re going faster—crisscrossing the river … creates a lot of chaos and danger.”
Linnell and his family said they strongly believe that all the dangers were worth it, however. His mom Jean said, “You don’t give birth thinking he’s going to be a world-record breaker. I’m just so proud of him. I just hope that this opens doors for the things that he wants to do.”
In the short term, those things include more stand-up paddle boarding. Alex’s primary sponsor for the trip, Twin Cities Paddleboard, has a race in September and he plans to be at the start line. He also wants to spend more time windsurfing, which he hasn’t been able to do because of the journey.
He’ll also have to take some time to prepare for an awards ceremony. Linnell is up for SUP Magazines “Top Expedition” award. Anyone who would like to help him win can do so by voting.
Eventually, Linnell would like to move out to California to persue these activities full time.
“I think I’ll take a year to save up some money, race and see where I’m at with that," Linnell said, "But then I’d like to make the move and really see what I can do within these sports.”