Dave Cornthwaite Paddleboards Down Mississippi River, Gets Into Record Books
Dave Cornthwaite knows what it's like to be up the creek. Luckily, he's had a paddle most of the time.
Cornthwaite, a 31-year-old Londoner, just spent the last two-and-a-half months paddling the entire distance of the mighty Mississippi River, starting in Elk Lake, Minn. It's a distance of more than 2,340 miles.
He got to the Gulf of Mexico early Wednesday evening -- and just in the nick of time, since his U.S. visa expires on Sept. 9.
"I was afraid I wouldn't make it," Cornthwaite admitted to HuffPost Weird News. "I spent a couple days off the water due to Hurricane Lee and there were a couple of days where the wind whipped through like a Tyrannosaurus rex."
Cornthwaite's journey began on June 19 in what was little more than a creek -- six feet wide and one foot deep -- but as he got deeper into the journey, so did the river. The speed he traveled depended on the current, but he did 77.2 miles in one day right before he got St. Louis.
Most people would be satisfied if they could complete just one extreme feat like the one Cornthwaite just did. But paddling the Mississippi is just No. 4 on a list of 25 he has vowed to accomplish.
Cornthwaite has chucked away a career as a graphic designer and editor in order to pursue something more dangerous than the next deadline: It's something he calls the Expedition1000 project, a series of 25 journeys of at least 1000 miles in length, each one using a different method of non-motorized transport.
So far, Cornthwaite has skateboarded across Australia from Perth to Brisbane, a distance of nearly 2240 miles; kayaked down Australia's 1,476-mile-long Murray River; and rode a tandam bike with a friend from Vancouver, B.C. to Las Vegas -- about 1300 miles.
"The skating was the worst," he said. "I needed seven months to recover. By comparison, stand-up paddleboarding is easier. It's a good upper body workout, but gives you time to think."
Next up, he plans to ride a bike with a sail across the Chilean desert in December and travel 1000 miles in a wheelchair in honor of the London Olympics next summer.
Cornthwaite's journeys are designed to raise $1.6 million for two charities: The AV Foundation, which works in East African schools and communities developing water system infrastructure to ensure the availability of electricity and safe, potable water; and Coppafeel, a breast cancer charity that encourages regular personal breast exams.
Cornthwaite explained his personal connection to the breast cancer charity: "A friend of mine who had breast cancer was misdiagnosed two times, and by the time they discovered she really had it, it was Stage 4."
He admits he wasn't really aware of what the American midwest was like before the paddleboating trip, and laughs now about how he prepared.
"I really thought it would be like [the movie] 'Deliverance,' so I took up the banjo before I came," he said. "I actually haven't found anyone who wanted to hear it yet. Oh, and not everyone is crazy obese."
He says folks along the Mississippi were open and generous, something he will miss during one of his planned future water feats -- rowing across the Indian Ocean. "I won't have anyone to talk to then," he said.
Now that Cornthwaite has paddled the entire Mississippi River, his feat will get him into the listings of Guinness World Records. But for now, he's holding off on the celebration -- at least until he gets on dry land.
"Someone gave me a Cuban cigar, and, even though I don't smoke, I thought it would be fun to light up in the Gulf," he said. "But then I thought I better check how much oil is on the surface first."