Charleston surfer buddies set world record for fastest travel to all 50 states | Charleston Scene

It was 15 degrees in Wyoming and 80 in Alabama in late April as a rented minivan, luggage strapped to the top and a twin-size mattress in the backseat, made its way across 48 state lines with a mission in mind. 

Thomas Cannon pulled up a map on his iPhone, a route designed by an algorithm seeking optimal ways to shave off trip time between back roads and highways. 

Justin Morris, from the passenger seat, tilted his camera and captured the phone mounted to the dashboard, arid Arizona desert terrain in the windshield at one point, snowy Nevada mountain peaks at another. 

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The route Thomas Cannon and Justin Morris took to travel to all 48 continental United States. Provided

The two Charleston friends who used to work together at Ocean Surf Shop on Folly Beach claim they have set a world record for traveling to all 50 states the fastest. And they did it without speeding.

“We were pretty good about obeying the speed limit,” Cannon said. “The last thing we wanted was a ticket.”

A plane trip from Hawaii to Alaska kicked off the mission, followed by a road trip between all 48 continental states that started at the Seattle airport.

Clocking it from wheels up in Hawaii to minivan tires crossing the Vermont border at exactly 7,007 miles on the odometer, Morris, 36, and Cannon, 33, made the trek in five days, 16 hours and 20 minutes. 

According to their time log from 8:33 p.m. on April 20 in Hawaii — which is six hours behind the East Coast — to 6:53 p.m. April 26 Eastern Time, they beat the former record by one day, one hour and 11 minutes.

That record was previously held by Nate Williams, Josh Willis, Chris Watson and Brian Mehrens from Missouri who made the whirlwind navigation in six days, 17 hours and 31 minutes in 2015. 


Thomas Cannon designed an algorithm that would help determine the fastest drivable route between all 48 continental states. Justin Morris/Provided

Though the world record crown does seem to now rest on the heads of the Lowcountry’s own Cannon and Morris, there isn’t yet any official recognition. 

That’s because Guinness World Records, the annual reference book that prints world record achievements, wasn’t along for the ride. They stopped recognizing “driving around the world at speed” in the mid-’90s due to safety concerns. 

“High-speed circumnavigations by car were a common feature of earlier editions, but by 1996, we stopped accepted new claims, owing the danger of driving over national speed limits,” the company shared. “We still accept claims for round-the-world driving records but only in relation to fuel economy, not speed.”


In Anchorage, Alaska, on the Seward Highway. Justin Morris/Provided

For Cannon and Morris, that didn’t matter.

They were determined to go on the adventure anyway, sponsored by Cannon’s employer eSite Analytics. The company provided Cannon with the resources necessary to design the optimal route algorithm, one that started in Seattle and ended in White River Junction, Vt. 

They also purchased a larger van for the occasion and paid for gas mileage and food along the route. 

Unfortunately, that much roomier vehicle broke down just as the journey was about to unfold, prompting the Charleston duo to rent a minivan instead. The unexpected trade switched out comfort for speed. 

Morris said you could stand up in the expected ride.

“We were going to build a bathroom in the back,” he said. “There were plenty of places to sleep.”

With the minivan, “Well, we lost a lot of space but but it probably handled the road a lot better and could go a lot faster.” 

Once they left Seattle, Morris and Cannon were in the car for four days straight. Their longest interludes were maybe 10 or 15 minutes while they stopped for gas and stretched their legs, Morris said. 

They spent the most time in a state (other than their kickoff in Hawaii) traveling 10 hours from Nevada’s northernmost spot, where they crossed in from Idaho, to its southern tip bordering California and Arizona. Their briefest visit to a state was a minute in Texas, just stepping over the Department of the Interior’s official marker en route from New Mexico to Oklahoma. 

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Justin Morris. Provided

“How does the van smell?” social media followers queried, the most-asked question the duo received along the way.  

“On the last day, we were running purely off adrenaline,” Morris said.  

For the driving portion of the journey, Cannon and Morris added two members to the team: Cannon’s father-in-law Bill McSteen — who only made it to Minneapolis on the third day before he was summoned back to work — and his friend Jim Froelich. 

Froelich and McSteen used to be old car racing buddies. 

“They’d do these endurance races, where they’d be up six, 12, 24 hours at a time,” Cannon said. “So this was right up their alley.” 

The passengers traded off on 24-hour driving shifts and stayed heavily caffeinated. 

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Thomas Cannon. Provided

“We ate a lot of beef jerky and drank a lot of coffee,” Cannon said. 

For entertainment, they mostly talked, he said, though there were a few podcasts and songs on the radio. 

When asked what their favorite state was along the route, they didn’t quite have an answer, since they only visited each for such a short period and mostly just from the car. 

The surfers admitted they were pretty stoked on their three nights in Oahu, Hawaii, before the world record race kicked off. There, they rented surfboards and soaked up some island-time relaxation before the impending time trial. 

Morris and Cannon are in the process of submitting their world record documentation to companies that might be able to sign off on the feat. Morris said he also has plans to package his photographs and video footage into some form of a documentary. 

But first — as Morris noted by phone with The Post and Courier a day after the adventure was over — sleep. 

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