Paper plane throwing is some serious business
Well, The Wall Street Journal was a tad bit late to the story – perhaps the news was flown in, scrawled on the fuselage of a paper airplane – but, nevertheless, they did get to it last week.
If you missed it, there is something of a brouhaha in the world of competitive paper plane throwing.
In March, Stephen Kreiger, the long-time holder of the Guinness record for unmanned 8 1/2 by 11 Hammermill flight, was trounced by one Joe Ayoob, a former quarterback for Cal.
At 226 feet 10 inches, Ayoob’s toss blew past Kreiger’s record of 207 feet.
Since records are meant to be broken, one might be inclined to suggest that the aggrieved Kreiger suck it up. Perhaps he could work on his release. Perhaps he could consider lofting a pigskin to put a bit more oomph into his arm. Perhaps he should re-evaluate the mechanics of his throw. Head back to the drawing board and tighten the crease in the paper.
Alas for Kreiger, he’s up against what may well be an unbeatable combination: a designer who takes the paper plane craft very seriously, and a hired gun to throw it for him. In contrast, Kreiger is chief cook and bottle washer: he’s both maker and thrower. And Kreiger’s not liking the way he lost his record.
"Competitive paper airplane flying had always been, in my mind, what can one person do with one piece of paper," says Mr. Kreiger, a 23-year-old engineer. Using a ringer, he says, is problematic: "I don't really think that's the spirit of the competition."
Guinness, however, has no problem with awarding the dual crown to the team of John Collins and Joe Ayoob, as the rules are silent on who has to do the folding of the paper plane and who has to facilitate its slipping the surly bonds of earth.
Although I had never heard of competitive airplane throwing, I am naturally sympathetic to Kreiger’s feeling put out. And I was fully prepared to dislike Collins. Bringing in someone to fly your paper plane just seems so Rollo the Rich Boy, so ‘I won the Pine Box Derby because my father hired an engineer to design and build my racer while your father just handed you a dull kitchen knife and told you to give him a holler if you sawed your thumb off while trying to hack the shape of a race car out of a pine block.’
And then I learned that Collins is not some parvenu trying to worm himself the easy way into the Guinness Book of Records.
He is, in fact, someone who has devoted a great deal of time to the art and science of paper airplane. He is, in fact, the Paper Airplane Guy, who has written two books and an iPhone app on the subject. (If I didn’t already have my Yankee swap gift lined up for this coming Christmas…)
While he was able to devote himself to perfecting the paper airplane, at 51, he was only able to throw it 120 feet. As Collins has said:
"Your arm is mostly rubber and cartilage at that point."
Collins tried out several candidates before choosing Ayoob to represent him. Ayoob, who logged quite a few practice hours over the year-and-a-half during which he prepped, did it for purest of motives: love of paper airplanes and the competitive fire within. (Collin did give him a $1K bonus for record setting.)
So they did deserve to win. But, hey, so did Kreiger.
The fair solution, of course, seems for Guinness to include two separate paper plane throwing categories: one for the compleat deal (one person who both designs and throws), and another for the combo package (a la Collins and Ayoob).
Competitive paper plane throwing…who knew?