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The Great Pumpkin Paddler: Fergus Falls-area man sets Guinness world record with pumpkin-paddling voyage from Grand Forks to Oslo, Minn.

Rick Swenson of Underwood, Minn., paddles down the Red River in a giant pumpkin Oct. 15, 2016 as he attempts to set the Guinness World Record for longest distance paddled in a pumpkin. Swenson paddled to Oslo, Minn., a distance of about 26 river miles, and received notification Tuesday morning from Guinness that he is the official record holder for longest distance paddled in a pumpkin. (Photo/ Brad Dokken, Grand Forks Herald)

It took nearly a year and a half, but an Underwood, Minn., man who paddled a giant pumpkin from Grand Forks to Oslo, Minn., in October 2016 officially is the World’s Greatest Pumpkin Paddler.

Rick Swenson, 37, made the epic voyage Oct. 15, 2016, and received official notification Tuesday morning that his 26-mile paddle --  41.038 kilometers, to be exact -- has earned its place in the Guinness Book of World Records as the longest distance ever paddled in a pumpkin, topping the previous record of about 15 miles; the trek took about 13½ hours. 

“We are thrilled to inform you that your application for longest journey by pumpkin boat (paddling) has been successful, and you are now the Guinness World Records Title Holder!” Guinness officials wrote Tuesday in an email to Swenson.

Becoming recognized as the record-setting pumpkin paddler required an extensive vetting progress to make sure Swenson’s paddling voyage met all of Guinness’ stringent requirements. He submitted a half dozen witness statements, including a few he sent twice to provide additional information for Guinness staffers.

“Well, it only took a year and a half but I am OFFICIALLY AWESOME!!!” Swenson joked Tuesday morning in a Facebook post. “Hopefully the 26 miles holds for a little while!”

In a phone interview, Swenson said he's considering upping the stakes sometime in the future and paddling all the way to Drayton, N.D., a voyage that would take at least a couple of days. But for now, Swenson says he's relishing his new world-record status.

"I have paddled a vegetable farther than anyone in the history of the world," he said with a laugh.

An Oct. 16, 2016 story about Swenson’s epic pumpkin voyage is available here.

Brad Dokken

Brad Dokken is a reporter and editor of the Herald's Sunday Northland Outdoors pages. Dokken joined the Herald company in November 1985 as a copy editor for Agweek magazine and joined the Herald staff in 1989. He worked as a copy editor in the features and news departments before becoming outdoors editor in 1998.  A Roseau, Minn., native, Dokken is a graduate of Bemidji State University. 

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