took to world record-breaking in
2004 after being inspired by a record-setting rally
driver in Kenya. What began as a hobby soon escalated
into an active publicity pursuit. Today, he promotes the
work of social and environmental causes. For these
purposes, the most fitting game plans are chosen; then
world titles are attempted and frequently created.
Wall Street Journal:
Shaking On It in Times Square
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Behind every world record attempt is the expertise of professionals in their field.
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Tallest silverbeet plant: 363.5cm
This is the story behind my world record for the Tallest silverbeet plant.
Right outside my front door is a 2m by 2m patch of earth that has been used as a vegetable garden in the past. I never used to pay it much attention, but with encouragement and persuasion I finally began tending it. I planted all kinds of vegetables and herbs, including potatoes, pumpkins, beetroot, spinach, beans, parsley, mint, lemon grass and others. But before I did so, I undertook a quick course in organic gardening since I don't fancy eating the results of modern scientific tampering with nature.
My back ached and arms became weak
from overworking the heavy, wet soil for weeks. First, I read tattered
texts on home gardening productivity, and questioned the local
self-made gardening expert. Next I began a compost bin which I guarded
like an investment. I dug almost a metre into the clayey earth base,
then collected rounded pebbles from the foothills of a distant
snow-capped mountain and sprinkled them on the bottom. Using a variety
of biodegradable items – including 'eco-degradable bags', I layered the
pit full while practising the good techniques I'd learned. It was a
large task. But I had decided this small patch of ground could benefit
me, and I was going to conquer it.
Not long after planting out the
seedlings, plants began growing with vigour. Among them was a lone
silverbeet I'd placed in one corner, a type of leafy chard, much like
spinach and full of iron. At first, I was picking leaves from it and
all the other
plants as a food source. But this plant was strange so I decided not to
pick any more of its leaves. It was growing so fast, I quietly
suspected some supernatural intervention! The locals were amazed at its
height passed 1.5 metres, then 1.8 metres, then 2... Although we
weren't entirely sure of it, we agreed it was no ordinary vegetable.
My interest peaked at this stage, and I dedicated
more time to caring
for this spindly giant. As I'd made up my mind not to use any synthetic
chemicals whatsoever in my vegetable garden, I was limited by what
boosters I could feed this silverbeet. The books mentioned screeds of
organic alternatives, from which I needed to choose. Although confusing
at first, I settled on 6 different mixes, each made in stages to allow
chemical processes to develop naturally. The plant suddenly found
itself being regularly fed my own diluted urine, ox blood and a
selection of other delicious goodies. Its leaves decreased notably in
size, possibly to redirect energy into the growth tip, and I was having
to extend the bamboo support constantly using the ladder.
was picking slugs and snails off my vegetable garden by hand at night,
but the silverbeet got special attention: I would run my fingers up its
stem with my face not far from the leaves, removing each and every
foreign thing I could see. Bugs, aphids, beetles and others were
instantly flicked off onto a pad of wet toilet paper the minute I found
them, together with any slugs and snails which managed to scale up the
stem to the dizzy height of about 50cm. From running my fingers gently
up the plant, I noticed it's stalk had changed shape from the base up.
Now it was twisting, ribbed and notch-like. I dare say that at this
stage, I was possibly paying more attention to the rocketing plant than
to my lovely girlfriend – and she knew it because the silverbeet became
the subject of nearly all our conversations.
I enquired of professionals, and was told
silverbeet do tend to shoot
up like this, but nobody had heard of one this tall. As winter came
along and the cold set in most days, the go-getter plant didn't seem to
slow down. Just as I thought this incredible fellow was going to keep
chasing the sky beyond winter, its leaves began to discolour: mineral
deficiencies. Scuttling around for further advice from New Zealand, the
USA and the UK, I was given what seemed the best and I gave my tallest
vegetable a new diet. To me it all looked the same: a sludge I poured
over the soil regularly, but according to the experts, this new
concoction was magic. I diligently followed advice from those who were
all but revered as sages in the garden plant world.
By now, my lady
friend was complaining about rejection. As all good partners would do,
I accepted that my recent behaviour hadn't been up to standard and I
went visiting. It was particularly cold that weekend and I'd left the
silverbeet in the best shape I could have. My vegetable garden looked
more like a home-made botanical experiment than a common garden with
all the gadgets set up in it. When I returned, as I walked toward my
front door I had a strange feeling that something was out of place.
Then I saw it. The tip of the silverbeet had turned black. It lay
flopped to one side, almost doubled over and pointing earthwards.
Frost, I thought. Yes, it must have been too cold on the very night I
wasn't there to rush out in the small hours and comfort the lanky
fellow. I couldn't believe it. Just my luck. And ironically, during our
next phone conversation that evening, my girlfriend wanted to hear more
But there was not much time. I had to act fast,
before the plant
completely died. Thank goodness I'd already arranged for the world
record claim to be submitted, and rang the photographer in a panic. She
rushed over to my place the following afternoon, and the required
witnesses assembled for me to complete the claim process. We dug the
poor giant out of the ground and scrutinised its every characteristic.
I measured it up and down, cut into it, ate one of the larger lower
leaves and had a botanically-minded friend analyse the root formation.
Everyone seemed to think this was great. But I
didn't – I'd got to know
the plant intimately; yet I hadn't been here to wish it farewell.