See below for latest race update 2:00 p.m. CT, October 3.
On October 1, a group of 20 endurance-paddling athletes will take off from a boat dock on Weiss Lake, in the northeast corner of Alabama. They embark on a 650-mile race that nearly follows a source-to-sea route of the Alabama River. This is the Great Alabama 650, founded in 2019, the second longest paddling race in the world.
Enduring The Great Alabama 650
Compared to other long distance races, such as the Yukon 1000, the 650 has athletes descending a diverse range of waterways. The Alabama 650 begins in a chain of lakes in the Appalachian foothills. Then followed by a section of whitewater on the Coosa River before eventually joining the widening Alabama River. The Alabama River continues a serpentining path across the state toward the maze of the Mobile-Tensaw Delta, often called the Amazon of North America.
Just when paddlers have put nearly the entire watershed behind them and their energy has been sapped, they must embark on an open-water 30-mile crossing of Mobile Bay to reach this finish at Fort Morgan on the Gulf of Mexico.
“You aren’t finished until you cross that open span of the Mobile Bay,” declares Paul Cox, who holds the current Alabama 650 record of 4 days, 17 hours and 2 minutes with race partner Joe Mann. “You go all that way, 600 miles, and then you have the worst part right at the end.” Cox and Mann nearly saw their 2021 run wrecked when they capsized in the bay. But the team recovered and still managed to finish in record fashion.
Cox will have a different perspective on the long distance event this year, chasing competitors through the state as a race volunteer. Supporting the athletes of the 650 is a perspective Cox has appreciated firsthand, and he looks forward to returning the favor. He says, the people of Alabama come out to remote stretches of river for a few moments of hoisting a sign and cheering them on. That gesture of support is a big part of what has made the long distance race stand out to him.
Follow The Action
The good news for paddling enthusiasts is that you don’t have to make a trip cross country to witness the race. Live tracking of the Alabama 650 will be available on their website AL650.com.
You can also learn more about the race itself by visiting AL650.com Stay tuned for further coverage of the Great Alabama 650.
October 3, 2022: Solo male paddler Bobby Johnson currently leads the race. As of 2:00 p.m. CT, Johnson has reached race mile 254, approaching the halfway point of the Alabama 650.
Salli O’Donnell holds second place, following closely behind Johnson. O’Donnell trails by just three miles. The pair closely contested the inaugural 2019 event, which Johnson eventually won.
Now it appears Johnson and O’Donnell are again in a race to win the 2022 Alabama 650, but not without company. Another solo female paddler, Frances Hiscox chases the two.
Eleven total boats are on the course. Five solo female paddlers, three solo male paddlers, and three tandem teams.
Continue to track the race live at: AL650.com.