650-mile paddle race from Weiss Lake to Mobile Bay awards winners

650-mile paddle race from Weiss Lake to Mobile Bay awards winners
The inaugural Great Alabama 650 took racers down some of the state's most scenic waterways. (Alabama Scenic River Trail)

Florida native Bobby Johnson won the inaugural Great Alabama 650 paddle race from Weiss Lake to Mobile Bay.

Johnson set a blistering pace for the 650-mile core section of the Alabama Scenic River Trail, completing the race in seven days, eight hours, one minute and 55 seconds. He crossed the finish line at Fort Morgan between 10 and 11 p.m. Sept. 21.

It was a race that took competitors onto some of the most scenic lakes and rivers in the state and past Alabama Power dams and waterways.

Johnson covered more than 85 miles per day with an average moving speed of almost 5 miles per hour. Before the race started, Johnson said he wanted “to set the time to beat on the course.”

Great Alabama 650 paddle race showcases state’s beauty, racers’ endurance from Alabama NewsCenter on Vimeo.

Not far behind Johnson was Salli O’Donnell, the only female solo competitor. O’Donnell, who lives in Fort Walton Beach, Florida, led for the first 500 miles of the race and finished at roughly 5 a.m., or six hours behind Johnson.

Both Johnson and O’Donnell were recognized in a ceremony Sept. 22, even though the race was still on at that point. Tandem paddlers Ryan Gillikin of Bay Minette and Susan Jordan of Mississippi had a great incentive to paddle on. As the last entry in the race, the team stood to collect a $7,500 prize if they completed the race in under 10 days.

The two did just that on their ninth day. Of the 12 entrants in the Alabama 650, only the three winners completed the course.

As the top male, top female and top tandem, the finishers split a $22,500 prize equally among those three divisions.

For more information on the Great Alabama 650 and plans for 2020’s race, visit alabamascenicrivertrail.com.

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