Minnesota pumpkin paddler sets unofficial world record

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Rick Swenson of Fergus Falls, Minn., paddles down the Red River in a giant pumpkin Sat. morning as he attempts to set the Guinness World Record for longest distance paddled in a pumpkin. (Brad Dokken photo) Photo Courtesy: Grand Forks Herald.

Move over Jack Skellington - call Rick Swenson the "Pumpkin King." 

Or at least the "Pumpkin Paddling King." 

On Saturday, Swenson of Fergus Falls, Minnesota, paddled 25.6 miles in a pumpkin along the Red River to set an unofficial Guinness World Record for longest distance paddling in a giant pumpkin. 

He started his journey in Grand Forks, North Dakota, at about 7:30 a.m. and finished in Oslo, Minnesota, about 13 hours and 40 minutes later. Swenson originally thought the old record was only 8 miles, but learned part way through his journey that someone had paddled 15 miles in Washington. However, Swenson had planned to go the whole 25.6 miles to Oslo, since he first planted the idea.

During the journey, Swenson was accompanied by two boats of family and friends, who made sure he was safe along the way. 

Swenson says the pumpkin would sometimes spin in circles, but he was surprised at how well his ride went.

“It’s heavy, but it’s stable,” said Swenson.

Swenson has been growing pumpkins for six years and was inspired to attempt the pumpkin paddle after seeing his friends partake in other pumpkin-themed stunts. One of his friends does an annual giant pumpkin drop on cars, while another once hollowed out a pumpkin large enough for his two grandparents to fit inside.

"I'm a little competitive," Swenson said.

The pumpkin, which weighs 1,086 pounds and is about 14 feet around, is now on display at the Chahinkapa Zoo in Wahpeton, North Dakota.

"I'm happy it's done. It was really entertaining," Swenson said. "I'm very satisfied."

Swenson's ride isn't an official world record yet. This week, he's planning to submit all the materials and evidence of his journey, which includes 300 photos, five videos, and unbiased witness statements. Once submitted, it will take about six weeks for Guinness World Records to get back to him.

He says hopes this is a world record that "people can smile about.”