The World Record journey began when I started working with Spread a Smile, a charity who provide entertainment and events for children across the London hospitals. Meeting these remarkable kids had a profound effect on me and inspired me to get out there and raise some money for the charity.
Being a big adrenaline junkie, the initial idea was to do a sponsored skydive and film a couple of magic tricks during the decent, to incorporate into the magic I was performing at the hospitals. During a meeting with the charity to discuss the fundraising idea, the charities PR Manager Liz Jay suggested looking into potentially breaking a world record and from that point, the world record goal was born!
The first recorded magic trick during a skydive was over 50 years ago and since then, only a handful of magicians have attempted to perform a magic trick during a skydive. With such a limited frame of reference, I had to start from scratch and use a process of trial and error to discover what would or wouldn’t work during the skydive. The hardest section is the freefall since air is rushing past you at over 120mph, the temperatures are sub-zero and there is a limited window of opportunity to perform the tricks.
Performing under a parachute also comes with a lot of challenges as there is nowhere to store items, the wind speeds are still in the region of 30-40mph and the temperature is still far below that on the ground. As well as the physical challenges, a major factor to overcome is the psychological aspects. Unfortunately the human body is not designed for flying and all of our basic instincts scream not to jump out of a plane a couple of miles above the ground!
Wind Tunnel Record
Since skydiving is not a cheap hobby and I had no prior experience of the sport, during my research I discovered iFly Indoor Skydiving in Milton Keynes and started visiting to practice for the skydive record. While there, the manager Andy Godwin got wind of what I was up to and decided to challenge me to set another record for performing magic in the wind tunnel.
Once Guinness World Records had approved the record application they confirmed a minimum of 8 magic tricks needed to be successfully performed in order for it to be an official record. With this in mind, on the 5th May 2016 I attempted the record in front of a selection of 6 specialist witnesses and a room full of eager onlookers. This is how the record unfolded
The skydive record was originally set to be attempted during the height of summer 2016, however the success of the wind tunnel record and proposed plans for a skydive record caught the attention of Guinness World Records PR Manager Doug Male. Once the wind tunnel record had been officially confirmed, Doug reached out to me and asked if I’d be willing to postpone the original date in July and attempt the record as part of Guinness World Records Day 2016 in November. Since the start of the project, I’d wanted to try and make the record go viral and this opportunity presented the biggest chance of making that dream happen. So after being sworn to secrecy, I proceeded with practicing for the record, all while fighting off a lingering shoulder injury which to the day of the skydive attempt, still threatened to cancel the whole thing!
Choosing the right location also came with its own challenges since British airspace is protected at various altitudes depending on what flight paths are overhead. Most skydiving airfields are able to go to a maximum height of 12,500ft, however GoSkydive in Salisbury is able to go up to 15,000ft and since they specialise in tandem skydives, they proved to be the best hosts for the record attempt.
I was privileged to have two awesome and experienced skydivers on hand as my core team. Ryan Mancey from GoSkydive was my tandem instructor and Andy Godwin from iFly Milton Keynes came to capture the freefall footage. Skydiving is the least practical way for an audience to watch magic so in order to capture every moment in detail and from multiple angles, four cameras were used throughout the attempt. Ryan had a GoPro attached to his wrist to get close ups throughout and Andy had two GoPro’s, one capturing stills and the other to film the external shots during freefall. I wanted to make the experience as interactive as possible so I also got Andy to wear a 360cam so that people are able to fully immerse themselves in the skydive experience with a virtual reality headset.
The following are a selection of videos from the day, the first is Guinness World Records highlights video, the second is the full skydive record and the third is the 360cam footage which can be viewed through a virtual reality headset…