7 wacky world records you’ll never believe

You can get a world record for just about anything – but here are some of the most awesome.
Freddy Nock balancing on the cable car ropeway at the Zugspitze in Switzerland.
Tightrope artist Freddy Nock © Bongarts/Getty Images
By Will Gray

Towing a ton of bricks

Type: World First / Distance Record
Who: Jim ‘The Shark’ Dreyer
Where: USA
Hazards: Drowning, lack of oxygen, sinking boat
Insanity Level: 8
Status: Done

Jim ‘The Shark’ Dreyer pulled a boat filled with half a ton of bricks for three days and two nights across Lake St Clair last year. The American has since taken on an even bigger challenge for Stan Lee’s ‘Superhumans’ TV show – to be revealed next month – and will swim-tow the Straits of Mackinac next year.

"The hallucinations were entertaining. A ship sailed to me then dissipated and I saw a man in a white robe on the water. I'm thinking it was big J.C."

Jim Dreyer pulling a boat filled with half a tonne of bricksacross Lake St Clair.
Jim ‘The Shark’ Dreyer © Team Dreyer crew photo

As far as you can go on a Penny Farthing

Type: Distance record
Who: Joff Summerfield
Hazards: Traffic, hygiene, falling off
Insanity Level: 5
Status: Still going... again!

This former F1 engine builder has already ridden a penny-farthing across 23 countries, from Europe to China and the US, more than anyone else. His first round-the-world attempt, in 2001, was stopped by injury after a day and in 2003 he got as far as Budapest before his knees gave up and he fell off. He completed the journey in 2008 – and is now going the other way round...

“I ran out of water in Turkey and had a drink from a farmer's irrigation pipe. I got 10 days’ dysentery from that,” he says. Presumably this time, he's taking more water.

The most far-traveled penny farthing in the world © Joff Sommerfield

The craziest tight-rope walk ever

Type: Height and Distance Record
Who: Freddy Nock
Where: Germany
Hazards: High winds, overbalance, nerves
Insanity Level: 9
Status: Done

Any normal person would take the cable car to reach the top of Germany’s highest mountain, Zugspitze, but for Switzerland’s Freddy Nock climbing the wire above was more appealing. In an 80-minute death-defying stunt, he walked 1km and gained 348m in altitude – claiming the record for highest and longest wire walk above sea level without a balancing pole.

Freddy Nock balancing on the cable car ropeway at the Zugspitze in Switzerland.
Tightrope Artist Freddy Nock © Bongarts/Getty Images

Mountain-running 36 vertical kilometres

Type: Distance Record
Who: Steve Birkinshaw
Where: England
Hazards: Bad weather, injury, exhaustion
Insanity level: 6
Status: Done

The stats speak for themselves: 512km in distance, 36km straight up, 214 peaks. Running all the way. That's the impossible challenge ultra runner Steve Birkinshaw set himself around a loop of England's hill country, the Lake District. The route may be little known but among ultra runners it was considered an almost impossible record to break.

It took six days and 13 hours – 12 hours faster than the previous record that stood for 27 years. “There were some really tough times out there, but every time I reached a top I met someone who had come out to support me.”

Steve Birkinshaw running down a hill.
Steve Birkinshaw running © Movieit

Swimming under ice

Type: Distance
Who: Stig Severensin
Where: Greenland
Hazards: Extreme cold, lack of oxygen
Insanity Level: 10
Status: Done

Stig Severinsen is one cold-blooded competitor – literally. The Danish freediver recently set a record for the longest swim under ice, going nearly 80m from entry to exit in a minute and a half – on just a single breath. The cold water increases the danger level. “Icy water can quickly lead to 'free flow' in the dive gear and the diver can lose all their air in seconds,” he says.

Stig Severinsen diving under ice.
Under ice © Dan Burton

Riding a skateboard around the world

Type: Distance Record
Who: Rob Thomson
Where: Europe, USA, China
Hazards: Traffic, mountain roads, US police
Insanity Level: 5
Status: Done

Rob Thomson’s 12,159km record skateboard journey from Switzerland to Shanghai took one year and 97 days. As part of a circumnavigation that included bikes, rafts, trains and boats, the Kiwi skated 1,541km across Europe, 5,529km across the American continent and 5,462km across China.

“I’d skate for five to six hours a day. The first three hours of the day are great. The following two or three hours are tough. I love it and I hate it.”

For more on Rob's adventure, visit his website.

Rob Thomson skateboarding around the world
Rob Thomson skateboarding © Rob Thomson

A lightning ascent of America's highest mountain

Type: Speed climbing/skiing
Who: Kilian Jornet
Where: Denali, USA
Hazards: Cold, altitude, storms, exposure, avalanches
Insanity Level: 9
Status: Done

It's impossible to write about records in the mountains without mentioning one man – Kilian Jornet. The Spanish mountain athlete has broken so many of them it's difficult to know which one to select. We went for his recent record ascent of 6,194m Denali. To give an idea, by the time he was back at base camp after a time of 11h 48m, the previous record holder was still an hour from summiting. Even more impressive? Just a month later Jornet smashed the Hardrock 100 record. You can check out the incredible pictures here.

Kilian Jornet hiking up the McKinley mountain
Kilian's ascent-descent record on Mount McKinley © 2014 Summits of My Life

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