Matthew Burdine is paddling a 16’6” Wenonah Solo Plus from the headwaters of the Mississippi River in Lake Itasca, Minn., to its end in the Gulf of Mexico. He put his paddle in the water on August 24 and hopes to complete the 2,300-mile trip on New Year’s Eve. He chose a canoe because it felt more primitive and would carry more gear. Unintentionally, he turned 30 on Day 30 of the trip.
C&K: Why did you decide to embark on this trip. And why solo?
Matthew Burdine: I wanted to embark on the Great American Adventure and paddle down the middle of America. Camping on the islands in the middle of the river is magical. I chose to do it now because the water is low and the sandbars are exposed. The magic happens when you’re out there alone and when you take your time. More personal transformation happens when you’re alone.
What are the main challenges on a trip like this?
Preparing mentally for a solo 2,300-mile trip is daunting. The first three weeks are the hardest. Your mind and body have to adjust until you get into the river trance. I focus on each day, moment by moment until I just click in with the river and the next thing you know an eagle is staring at you. The other main challenge will be safety. The river starts and ends in marshland. Lake crossings can be dangerous, and when the wind changes it’s like being out in the open ocean. Soon there will be lots of big currents and big barges that I’ll have to navigate.
Why did you decide to paddle to support breast cancer research?
I lost my grandmother, mother and many friends to breast cancer. Paddling for a cause gives me more fuel to deal with the challenges. Every two minutes someone is diagnosed with breast cancer. Every year, one in a thousand men are diagnosed.
What are you looking forward to on the trip?
The surprises. The unknown. I want to remember this trip for the rest of my life. I earned an MBA and pursued a career on Wall Street. I decided I couldn’t live wearing a business suit every day and wanted to be out experiencing the world. I went to the Rocky Mountains and became a river guide and a ski instructor. I want to experience the magic in life, to be spontaneous and to take it all in. I want to open my heart and expand my mind.
— Follow Matthew’s journey and donate to support breast cancer research at amillionstrokes.com.
— Read more on the performance of the Solo Plus in our ‘RIDES’ installment with Wisconsin’s John Sullivan