Norwegian sets world record in watercross

Morten Blien of Finnmark snowmobiles 212 km across the Tana River for the new record

Photo: Jan Helmer Olsen / NRK In August Morten Blien won the European Championship in watercross.

Photo: Jan Helmer Olsen / NRK
In August Morten Blien won the European Championship in watercross.

Molly Jones
Norwegian American Weekly

Norwegian Morten Blien isn’t satisfied with traditional hobbies such as driving a snowmobile on land or boating on the river. In fact, he prefers to combine the two to compete in the increasingly popular sport of watercross—driving a snowmobile across water.
The 30-year-old from Tana (located in Norway’s most northeastern county of Finnmark) already holds several European championships in the unique watersport. But that wasn’t enough for Blien; he had his eye set on the world record.

To accomplish this, Blien had to surpass the previous record of 180 km set by the Finnish Antti Holmberg in July 2013. His plan was to start in Ássebákti, Karasjok, ride down to Lakšjohka in Tana, and then finish at Levajok for a 250-km trip.

At one in the afternoon on September 18, Blien began his journey aboard his Polaris RMK 800 snowmobile. His trip went well until, just over four hours later, his snowmobile suddenly stopped. Although Blien didn’t make it to his goal of 250 km, he reached 212 km, breaking Holmberg’s record by 32 km, and made it safely to land.

Satisfied, Blien stated that everything following the 180-km mark was a bonus. “The ride was fantastic! There have been a lot of people along the river, and I am surprised that local people in Karasjok and Tana have been so interested. Hats off to those who have been freezing and waiting,” said Blien to NRK.

He’s still not sure what happened to his snowmobile, however, and told NRK: “I am unsure of what happened. We have installed an additional throttle lever on the snowmobile, so that if one hand got tired, I could use the other. It’s possible that something happened that to the sensor that caused the gas to stop flowing adequately to the engine.”

Although most would agree that Blien now holds the watercross world record, it does still need to be submitted to Guiness. Even though he wasn’t able to drive the snowmobile ashore at the end, Blien is confident that Guiness will approve his achievement.

Part of the motivation behind Blien’s goal was to bring positive attention to his home of Karasjok and Tana. “We do get attention, but it is because of the salmon. There is a lot of complaining because of poor salmon fishing, so we want to focus attention over here for other reasons,” he commented.

And his mission seemed to have worked. The Norwegian’s success quickly gained international attention, including an article in American Snowmobiler magazine.

There is some question of whether snowmobiling on the Tana River is legal, however. While the municipalities of Tana and Karasjok both approved it, the county governor of Finnmark argues that they do not have this right as it does not follow the laws for small boats.

The Mayor of Tana, Frank Martin Ingilæ, disagreed with this argument, saying, “Morten Blien will drive a snowmobile that does not float without good speed. The snowmobile cannot be regarded as a boat, a vessel, or a jet ski that actually floats.”

But the county’s Chief of Environmental Protection, Bente Christiansen, also argues that the county—not the municipalities—has the expertise to assess these regulations, and adds that there could be consequences for Tana and Karasjok, as well as Blien.

While the legal outcome is yet to be determined, Morten Blien continues to keep a positive attitude as he celebrates his record-setting 212-km ride.

This article originally appeared in the Oct. 16, 2015, issue of the Norwegian American Weekly.

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