NEW YORK — Talk about having a big serve: wacky New Yorker Ashrita Furman has just built a tennis racket the size of a bus.
Furman, who holds the record for the most Guinness World Records at one time — currently 151 — hopes his mammoth wooden racket will soon join the list.
The contraption is an exact copy of the wooden one used by Billie Jean King in the 1970s when she reigned over women’s tennis at tournaments like the US Open that kicked off in New York this week.
The laminated wooden head, brown grip, red trim and inscriptions are a perfect match.
The only difference is that the racket measures 50 feet (15.2 meters) long and has a head 16 feet (4.9 meters) wide. The strings are made of water hose and the handle is so big that even a large person would have trouble wrapping both arms around it.
“It’s 22.2 times bigger and done to scale,” Furman told AFP.
Although it was his idea, this wasn’t the lonely challenge of some of his other Guinness feats, which included balancing 81 drinking glasses on his chin or running a half marathon with a full bottle of milk on his head.
“We had members from all over the world. One guy from New Zealand did the wood finishing. We had a guy who’s a professional violinist, and he did the strings. We had a German guy planing the wood,” Furman said.
Once the giant sporting device was done, propped up on blocks in a private driveway in New York’s borough of Queens, the next challenge was to decide where to take it — and how to get it there.
“We did try to display it at the US Open, but we were told that because it’s over 10 feet high it’s considered a building,” Furman said, laughing. “You know it would take months to get a permit from the Department of Buildings.”
Furman, 57, and his assistants are all devotees of the late guru and peace advocate Sri Chinmoy, who taught that meditation can help people accomplish seemingly impossible tasks, and who was a friend of King’s.
The racket was built to honor what would have been Chinmoy’s 81st birthday.
Pasha Royden, an 11-year-old from New Zealand, took a turn bouncing around in the strings. He said he isn’t a great tennis player, but he certainly enjoyed becoming a human tennis ball.
“It shows the world that anything you want to be done can be done,” he said, pausing to look back at the racket.
Royden then thought over the implications of such a big racket. “To play, a giant would probably have to be (the height of) that tree. Three of them on top of each other,” he calculated. “Then he’d need a very big court and a very big opponent and another very big racket and more than one ball.”
Furman said it took seven days for his team to get the racket made in the back yard in the leafy residential neighborhood and that they would have gone more quickly if they’d been able. “Our style is kind of work-through-the-night, but the neighbors were complaining.”
The group previously made the world’s biggest pencil, and already Furman is dreaming about the world’s biggest hobby horse. It all seems doable to a man who’s already got the records for catching grapes in his mouth (85 in one minute), spitting champagne corks and underwater hula hooping.
“I’ve found that the meditation really works. If you go deep inside yourself, you can do anything,” Furman said.
Engineer Yuyudhan Hoppe, 53, who oversaw the technical side of the racket project, said they could have built one bigger yet, except for one simple problem that even meditation couldn’t fix.
“It wouldn’t fit in the yard.”
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