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October 19, 2012

World records are serious business at Guinness

(Continued)

Saavedra rode the wave created by a speedboat for 41.3 miles. Janela said it was especially strange to see Saavedra surfing alongside huge container ships.

That record involved one person, but often a record-setting attempt will require a large group. Janela said that dealing with hundreds or thousands of people sometimes makes his job tricky.

"It can be very difficult to organize and count people. Sometimes there is no counting system in place," he said. "The hardest work is before the event."

One event that involved a lot of counting was the record for the world's largest toast, which was set April 20 at Fenway Park. That day marked the 100th anniversary of the ballpark, and the Boston Red Sox provided every fan in attendance with a glass and a bottle of grape juice. Janela said he and a lot of helpers counted as the crowd of 32,904 raised a glass to mark the occasion.

Janela also has met the woman with the longest fingernails (19 feet, 9 inches for all 10) and the person with the tallest mohawk (44.6 inches — that's almost four feet).

Growing hair and drinking grape juice don't involve risk of injury, but Janela said people ask Guinness about setting records that are dangerous. In cases that involve kids, Janela said his team sometimes has to say no.

"If you're under 16, we don't accept a circumnavigation [traveling around the world] or really extreme athletic feats," he said.

But Janela said Guinness doesn't want to discourage kids. "We always provide alternative record ideas. We don't want to turn anyone away."

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