Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Surfer breaks erroneous Guinness surfing record, or did he?




Everybody loves to hear about Guinness World Records. They’re crazy. They’re stupid. They’re fun. Like the record attempt over the weekend in Surf City -- except for the parts that fail to pass the smell test.

This gets interesting, folks.

Swell.com announced it was flying in Guinness officials last Saturday to judge Bill Laity’s attempt to break the world record for the longest continuous surfing session.

Said Swell.com: “The current record stands at a solid 24 hours, set by lifeguard Thomas Cannon in the warm summer waters of North Carolina. Bill will be pushing to beat that by a considerable amount.”

Oh, he beat it by a considerable amount, all right, if he indeed surfed as long as it is claimed.

Laity, 37, of San Clemente set a potential world record for longest continuous surfing session at 26 hours, emerging from the water at 9:26 a.m. Sunday, according to Michael Figueroa of Swell.com (via the Orange County Register).

He did so in the surf off Huntington Beach, Calif., battling rain, wind gusts between 20 and 40 mph, storm swells surging from all directions, water temperatures in the low 60s, air temperatures in the low 40s -- and only getting five-minute breaks every hour.

By Swell.com’s count,  he caught 147 waves, or five to six waves an hour. Kudos, Mr. Laity, kudos. What a feat! But you know, you could have stopped after 16 hours and had the record by plenty.

Why? Because the world record is actually 15 hours, 2 minutes, at least according to Thomas Cannon.

Cannon, a senior at Gardner-Webb University in North Carolina, was featured on Oct. 9 by the school newspaper on GWU-Today.com. He was attempting to surf for 24 hours, but he said it got too rough so he quit early.

But since no previous record had been set, his newly established record stands. Or does it?

It may not even be a record as of today. According to that Oct. 9 article, Cannon said he still needed to edit the video of his attempt and send it in to the Guinness World Record people. He said he’d do it by Christmas, and Guinness says it takes 6-8 weeks to verify.

So was there even a record for Laity to break? Uh, probably not.

Oh, but the plot thickens.

What’s amazing is that Swell.com would pay between $4,780 to $7,966 to bring a Guinness adjudicator on scene to verify the record on the spot. According to the Guinness website, that's the going price if you want its people there. Now, the folks at Swell.com wouldn’t just say they were bringing in Guinness judges just for the publicity would they? Naw, of course not.

But it is interesting that the record wasn’t instantly verified by the Guinness adjudicator as is Guinness protocol. The certificate is supposed to be presented on the spot. Curiously, there was no publicity video of this presentation, and Swell.com’s post-event recap only said it "is believed to be a new world record.” Hmmm.

No worries, Swell.com, your employee could still become the world-record holder if he follows the Guinness requirements for verification. Either way, you got the pub you wanted (or at least some; see above video from "Good Day L.A.," and listen to the "We assume a lot of shrinkage" comment by in-studio host Steve Edwards -- yikes!).

Listen, we take nothing away from Laity and his achievement -- 26 hours of continuous surfing? Crazy. Stupid. Fun. Way to go.

But really, it kinda amounts to a fraternity prank, where you tell a brother the record for eating hot chili peppers is 12 and he eats 13 only to find out there was no record.

As for Cannon, if his record becomes official, he’ll have to wait to see if it survives Laity’s application.

A funny aside: GWU-Today.com asked Cannon if he was worried about any ambitious surfers trying to break his record before he makes another attempt at a 24-hour surfing record.

“I feel kind of safe until next summer because no one’s going to try to do it during the winter,” he said.

Well, somebody did -- and beat you by a large margin. We think.

Now, if you guys want a really impressive surfing record to shoot for, try the one listed here.

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