Steve Kuehne of Lebanon paddles on the Missouri during his record-breaking pumpkin boat trip.

Steve Kueny’s body still aches.

Yours would too if you broke the Guinness World Record for longest journey in a pumpkin boat on Monday, Oct. 9. Steve Kueny took nearly 11 hours to paddle 38 miles on the Missouri River – from Kansas City, Kansas, to Napoleon – in a 1,208-pound pumpkin christened “Huckleberry.”

“I thought I could go work out on Thursday morning to try to work some of (the soreness) out,” Kueny said. “My coach made me row.”

Last year, Nebraskan Duane Hansen set the Guinness World record — and broke every previous record — in his 846-pound pumpkin.

Kueny plans on submitting all the evidence collected to corroborate his journey, including witnesses, GPS data, time stamps, video footage, photographs and other documentation to Guinness World Records for verification.

Along with him for the ride were the KC Paddle Club and half a dozen boats, which kept him safe from man-made dangers, like barges and tugboats, and natural ones.

“There were definitely points where we had to act quickly to stay safe. There were several sand dredges, which if you get swept into, they can certainly kill you,” Kueny said.

Kueny spent most of his summers as a teen working at Riverfront Campground and Sand Spring resort. He said his experience on the water in the Ozarks prepared him for this record-breaking trip.

“I’m pretty comfortable on the water in general, but on a lot smaller water than the Missouri River,” Kueny said. “I felt like I knew enough to understand the dangers I could run into along the Missouri River, and that was why I surrounded myself with people who were specifically experienced on the Missouri.”

Pumpkin growing was a hobby Kueny picked up during the pandemic, but Hansen’s 2022 record was part of what inspired him to make the trip.

Steve Kueny paddles along in Huckleberry.

“I just remember thinking — (in August 2022) I had a great big pumpkin out in the garden, about the same size as what he used — I thought, ‘I bet I could do that,'” Kueny said. “And I did. Not by a lot, but I did.”

Kueny grew the pumpkin himself over the summer, picked it about two weeks ago, took it to a weigh-off and then carved it up over the weekend. At the weigh-off, the pumpkin came in at nearly 1,300 pounds, according to a post on his Facebook page. It took him about 45 minutes to scoop out all the seeds. For added stability, Kueny put sandbags on the floor of the fruit.

After its incredible journey, the pumpkin met a watery end. The boat ramp was too steep for the trailer required to remove the great gourd.

“We removed everything that we had in the pumpkin that’s not biodegradable, and then we decommissioned it,” Kueny said. “That’s a nice way of saying we ran it over with a pontoon boat.”

Who were the previous pumpkin paddler record holders? 

A couple of people have dared to captain a voyage in a pumpkin.

Here’s a list of previous record holders: 

Duane Hansen (2022) — Made a 37.50-mile trip down the Missouri River 

Rick Swenson (2016) — Made a 25-mile trip from Grand Forks, North Dakota to Oslo, Minnesota

While his trip didn’t break any records, a man from Tennessee grew a 910-pound pumpkin in 2019 and floated it across a pond.

Kueny isn’t sure if he’ll pursue another trip down the river by gourd any time soon. There are some people in the “giant pumpkin boating space” who are planning attempts this year.

“If nobody breaks it this year, I’ll probably try and let someone else take a run at it next before I try it again,” Kueny said.


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