Stuntman Goes For Guinness Record
At 1,650 degrees Fahrenheit his entire body is consumed in flames, yet he continually dares to defy logic. Nothing, not the deep roar of fire in his ears or the suffocating smoke in his face causes him to compromise his professionalism.
This jet ski stuntman has spent half of his adult life willingly lighting himself on fire to push the limit. Now, Edmond's own Steve Huckeba plans to use his experience to put his name in the ultimate record book this July.
The Guinness Book of World Records contains every record imaginable Ð from the world's largest rocking horse to the fastest pumpkin carving to Huckeba's own test, the longest full body burn without oxygen. To complete his task, he must be completely enveloped by fire with no outside source of oxygen and must beat the current record holder, Ted A. Batchelor, who in 2004, was successfully lit and then extinguished in two minutes and 38 seconds.
Huckeba, who usually averages a safe one and a half minute full burn, is trying to set the new record at a full three minutes. "The last minute is like my nemesis," says Huckeba. "I've done it enough to know what will probably happen. I know what I'm in for and that's why I'm going to be able to do it. It's just something I have to find out."
In his early days, Huckeba was named California's state champion in freestyle jet skiing and qualified for the world finals. His skills led to opportunities to make a living as a stunt man when he received invitations to do shows at water parks like SeaWorld and Universal Studios. The risky tricks that first lured him into freestyle jet skiing soon werenÕt enough and he took it to the next level by riding while on fire. "I just got the idea that I could light myself on fire and ride the jet ski around," says Huckeba. "I didn't know what was going to happen, but it turned out pretty good." His first fire ride lasted about one minute, but between the adrenaline and his curiosity it just wasn't enough.
The Guinness World Records has specific rules for record-breaking attempts. For a full body burn the fire must not die down. "The second half is the hard part," says Huckeba. "It's hot and really dangerous and in order to get a fire to last for two and a half minutes you have to start out really big. We'll probably have to fuel the fire about half way through. It's going to be double the danger for what I'm used too."
In an undisclosed location, he plans to ride his jet ski for a minute and a half before coming to shore to be refueled by a small team. He will spend the last minute of his attempt on solid ground, close enough to the water so that when the second hand hits the three-minute mark he can dive in to stifle the flames.
Some would call him crazy. Since 1987, he's lit himself on fire over 500 times and his experience gives him the confidence that he can pull this off. "When you can visualize yourself doing something you can usually do it and if you can't, then you shouldn't have anything to do with it at all," Huckeba says. "My confidence comes from experience and just a willingness to except whatever happens. There's an 80 percent chance I'll be just fine and that's pretty good odds. I'm pretty confident I can pull this off or I wouldn't be doing it at all."
This time the throngs of people won't be there shouting praises. He's traded wave pools and stadiums for a small, quiet lake in Oklahoma. For the summer of 2009, Huckeba will light once more to forever be remembered in the record books in one undeniable blaze of glory.