December 02, 2002
Yo-yoer Fast Eddie MacDonald shows off his haircut trick.
At the Guinness World Records Event 2003, held in Toronto last
week, two records were broken: Patrick McMurray of Starfish, on Adelaide
Street East, earned his first Guinness entry for most oysters shucked
in one minute (32, breaking the previous record of 29). And Fast Eddie
MacDonald of Hamilton did more than 9,000 yo-yo loops in one hour,
breaking his own record set 10 years ago.
Getting into The Guinness Book of World Records isn't easy, says David
Drew, Guinness's representative in Canada for 25 years. What is easier,
he adds, is the record keeping. "I would get phone calls in the
middle of the night [his name and phone number were in the front of
the book of records], telling me that someone broke some record somewhere."
Now you just go to www.guinnessworldrecords.com to tell them what
you've done. But first, obviously, you should do a bit of research
to find out about the record you're going to beat.
Drew tells this story by way of illustration: "Years ago, a disc
jockey at a radio station in Vancouver was attempting to break the
record for the longest time on a roller coaster. The radio station
phoned to tell me that he was closing in on the record and had been
on the ride for approximately 150 hours -- six days!
"I had to tell them that someone from Iceland had recently broken
"What's the new record?"
" '1,000 hours' -- 41 days!," I said.
"I heard a guy scream, and they hung up. That was the last I
heard from them."
The Guinness Book, which turns 50 next year, discourages dangerous
stunts, even the once-popular goldfish swallowing.
Drew says any bizarre or dangerous proposal gets refused. The best
stunts, on the other hand, are those "when groups or organizations
get involved for a good cause, for example, the Terry Fox Run, and
everyone has a good time."
The record holder for holding records is Ashrita Furman, of Jamaica,
N.Y., who has broken 72 records and currently holds 17.
"He chooses his stunts very carefully," says Drew. Furman's
feats include walking 81 miles in slightly under 24 hours with a milk
bottle on his head and pogo-sticking up the stairs of the CN Tower.
Some record holders make money out of their skills -- for example,
Fast Eddie MacDonald now sells Fast Eddie yo-yos and has entertained
people in 22 countries.
Sometimes, people attempt to break what they think will be easy records
-- like eating four hotdogs with buns in three minutes, without water.
It's not easy, Drew insists. Obviously, records must be authenticated
before they go in the book: "We take statements from people who
saw them do it, and we rely on videos," says Drew, adding that
he thinks most people are honest. That said, Guinness does retain
the right to verify and check the names of witnesses.
"I'd like to make the book," I tell Drew, and ask for some
"To be successful, you have to think from a record breakers'
point of view. For example, the annual cut-off date is around late
June, so you can break a record in September and if someone comes
along and breaks your record before the June deadline they make the
book and you don't."
"OK," he says. "What is it you'd like to do?"
"As little as possible. Nothing too strenuous. I don't want to
push a bus a mile or anything like that. Maybe the longest bubble
bath?" (I have experience with that one.)
Drew does a check and tells me, "There's no bubble-bath record
in place right now, so Guinness might create that category if you're
inclined to make a go of it."
My next step is to fill out an application online, and then, he says,
"attempt the feat."
"What do you mean, 'attempt the feat.' I just intend to bathe.
How long do I have to lie there anyway."
He's not sure.
"How about 10 hours?" I offer.
"That seems pretty minimal to me," he says. "You could
attempt to break the farthest distance pushing a bathtub," a
record that is currently 318.96 miles by 25 people from a Baptist
church in Western Australia.
Frankly, the bubble-bath idea is more appealing, so I point out that
since I'm creating the stunt I could just stay in the tub for 10 minutes
and make the book.
Drew tells me firmly that Guinness won't go for that. "They'll
probably give you some minimums to work with if they think you should
attempt it," he says. "So are you going to do it?"
I ponder the possibility.
"How about something like the largest number of newspaper reporters
in one bathtub?" Drew says.
Now that is a scary thought.