What Is Planking?

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So, what is Planking? Planking, also known as the Lying Down Game, is the act of lying face-down an unusual location—stiffly, as though one were a wooden board or plank. According to the “rules” of this fad, the person participating in this activity must abide by a few rules.

What Is Planking?

Planking rules are:

  • Announce they are engaged in the activity
  • Hold their body flat while it is supported in only some areas, while other parts of their body are suspended
  • Have both of their arms touching the sides of their body at all times, with their fingers pointed
  • Lay face-down on a flat surface with no expression on their face
  • Have their legs straight, touching each other, with their toes pointed
  • Give a name to their plank and have the activity photographed or filmed

What Is Planking’s First Recorded Occurrence?

Tom Green is a comedian who was in an MTV show in the 1990s. Green was known for his pranks, and in 1994, he orchestrated a stunt in Ottawa, Ontario, for a cable television program which appears to be the first recorded instance of the activity. Green named his stunt Dead Guy. It consisted of Green lying face-down on a sidewalk without moving. The video, unfortunately, never aired.

Planking’s First Known Public Performance

In 1997, two school boys in the United Kingdom, Christian Langdon (age 12) and Gary Clarkson (age 15), started lying face-down in public places in Taunton, the county town of Somerset, England. Langdon and Clarkson called their stunt the Lying Down Game.

The Lying Down Game was something only played by Langdon, Clarkson and their friends for 10 years. In 2007, Daniel Hoppin, a friend of both Christian Langdon and Gary Clarkson, created a Facebook page for their game. Hoppin’s idea was that participants in the game should post their craziest photo of the practice — the crazier the photo in the more incongruous the location the better.

Planking Fails

Who Coined the Term?

Sam Weckert of Adelaide, South Australia coined the term in the summer of 2009. Weckert created a Facebook page for it so that the people he knew would have a place to share their activity photos. After the Australian news media began reporting on the practice, the fad became a worldwide phenomenon.

Photographs of Plankers in Action?

There are several Websites and Facebook pages dedicated to the activity. The best source for photographs of it being done in incongruous locations is the Official Planking page on Facebook.

Planking’s most Controversial Occurrence

There have been several occurrences of the activity which were so unusual or outlandish or dangerous, they became news items rather than just posts on a Facebook page.

  • In 2011, a young woman planked with her head in a toilet. A number of people thought this was funny, and decided to create even better events involving toilets and this activity. This variation of the fad was given the name plumbking. If you are interested in seeing photographs of people using a toilet as a prop in the activity, do a google search on ”plumbking”
  • The night shift in the Emergency Room at Great Western Hospital in Swindon, Wiltshire, United Kingdom planked in mid-August 2009. Seven doctors and nurses planked on beds, floors, gurneys and the helipad. Their problems arose when they created a Facebook page, Secret Swindon Emergency Department Group, and posted photographs of their activities related to this practice on it. As one would expect, all seven were suspended from work. (The page has since been removed.)
  • On May 13, 2011, 20-year-old Nate Shaw from Gladstone, South Australia saw two police cars parked next to each other. He planked across the gap separating the vehicles. All would have been well, but Shaw posted a photo of his event on a Facebook page. Gladstone police saw the photo and arrested the planker.

Planking Death

Gladstone police Sgt. Matthew Russell told reporters after Nate Shaw was arrested that although the incident was a fun activity, plankers cannot break the law. He went on to say that engaging in dangerous stunts puts the planker and others in potentionally harmful situations.

Nate Shaw’s response to the police comment was that he wanted to be known as the best planker there is. Shaw said:

“I know they’re doing their job, but I don’t really see the problem with a few guys having a bit of fun. It’s not hurting anyone. I haven’t caused any damage. It’s not breaking anything.”

  • Two days after Nate Shaw was arrested by the Gladstone police, the activity took a tragic turn. Acton Beale, a 20-year-old man, planked on a 2”-wide balcony railing of an apartment located on the seventh floor of a building in Brisbane, Australia while a friend photographed the event. The stunt went wrong, and Beale fell to his death. After Beale’s death, Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard said:“There’s a difference between a harmless bit of fun done somewhere that’s really safe and taking a risk with your life. Everybody likes a bit of fun, but focus has to be on keeping yourself safe first.”
  • On May 29, 2011, Max Key posted an event photograph on Facebook. Max Key is the son of John Key, the Prime Minister of New Zealand. The photograph showed the younger Mr. Key engaged in the practice on a sofa, with his father standing behind him. The photo later appeared on the front page of the New Zealand Herald. The Prime Minister confirmed that the photo was genuine and stated he didn’t see anything wrong with the activity as long as the action was done safely. John Key was criticized for appearing in the photo with his son. Veteran plankers said that by giving his approval to the act, the Prime Minister spoiled the game for everyone.
  • Professional athletes have added the activity to the games they play. NBA teammates Dwight Howard and Gilbert Arenas of the Orlando Magic have become plankers, sometimes participating in the activity together and sometimes going it alone. They both have planked in their homes and in public places. Howard planked the wing of an airplane, and they both planked the top of a Waffle House sign. Photographs of Howard on the airplane wing and both Orlando Magic players on top of the Waffle house sign can be seen in this archived USA Today article.

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