SAULT STE. MARIE — He may not have broken the Guinness World Record for furthest distance travelled in a pumpkin boat, but Sault resident Brent Rouble couldn’t be happier for the memorable experience he had this weekend.
After growing a 900-pound pumpkin in his east-end backyard, the local geologist managed to paddle in the giant plant for just over 23 kilometres along St. Marys River and the open waters of Lake Huron on Sunday before some tough waves forced him to stop.
His eight-and-a-half-hour journey with virtually no breaks began in front of an excited crowd yesterday morning at the Bellevue Marina. With the support of Thrive Tours and a safety crew team led by his friend Kyle Scali, Rouble’s trek came to a bitter-sweet end near Echo Bay around 4:30 p.m.
Although he was feeling slightly sore this morning, Rouble says the temporary pain is beyond worth it.
“It was such a cool adventure; the sights were absolutely beautiful,” he told SooToday. “That was seriously the best pumpkin a guy could ask for in doing something like this. It was tough as nails, it floated perfectly, and it was stable. I didn’t feel worried about tipping at all.”
While his unconventional water craft miraculously withstood a number of challenges over the course of that afternoon, high waves and luckless currents inevitably made the goal of breaking the 62-kilometre world record an impossibility.
“I fought for every metre,” he says. “I thought the wind would help, but for half the trip, the wind was actually against me. The current didn’t help either; it was working against us the whole time. Some of the waves were coming into the pumpkin and getting me pretty soaked as well.”
“But it’s a world record – it’s not supposed to be easy.”
Rouble achieved a maximum speed of five kilometres/hour, or walking speed, but there were times he was only travelling one kilometre/hour or less. His average speed finished at just over two kilometres/hour, which meant he would have had to paddle for more than 30 hours at that pace to claim the record.
“I was literally crawling to St. Joseph Island,” he says. “The speed just wasn’t enough. The currents really were the only thing that didn’t go right through all of this. I knew it wasn’t going to be safe to go all through the night and into the morning.”
Despite some hardship along the way, the passionate gardener says he felt all the good vibes from his supporters which helped greatly.
“There were strangers coming from Bruce Mines and Thessalon to see this crazy guy in a pumpkin,” he says. “I heard people on the Canadian side yelling ‘go Brent go!’ sometimes, which was a huge help because it definitely got tough.”
“American boaters were passing us, and we saw them doing double takes since they were wondering what we were doing which was pretty funny.”
Preparing to do it all again next year, Rouble says he’s looking for a sponsor to help his team travel to the Grand River in southern Ontario as he hopes to grow an even larger pumpkin and break the distance record there.
“Thrive Tours said that would be a good river to break the world record,” he says. “You need fast-moving water, and pumpkins do not paddle well – they’re too big and too round. Unless you have fast water, you won’t be moving that quickly.”
“If I can grow a pumpkin with a bit of legroom, I could go for days,” he laughed.
Waiting to hear back from Guinness for confirmation, Rouble believes he is the furthest to paddle in a pumpkin boat on the Great Lakes. While he’s unlikely to attempt that water system again, he encourages anyone up to the challenge to give it a try.
“It’s definitely not easy, but it is beatable,” he says. “If anyone wants to beat it, just grow a giant pumpkin and pick a good day for currents.”
Grateful for the community’s response to his bold venture, Rouble is hopeful his story will help inspire the younger generation to always think big.
“I heard stories about kids getting pumped up about this,” he says. “Some of them were curious about world records and even about gardening. I’m hoping we inspired some kids to do some good in the community.”