We Tried To Beat The World's Best Long Distance Paper Airplane Flier (And Lost)
On Saturday, May 18, Long Beach resident Jake Hardy won the gold trophy for distance at the Red Bull Paper Wings World Finals. In other words, he threw a paper airplane really, really far — 186 feet, to be exact.
That's almost the length of two basketball courts.
That's right, ladies and gentleman. Hardy is now, officially, the world's best long distance paper airplane flier.
Check out his throw at the 2019 World Finals:
So when we heard that the world champion of paper plane throwing came from our own backyard, we noble athletes of LAist and KPCC decided to set up a little contest to challenge him for his title.
HOW DID JAKE HARDY LEARN TO THROW A PAPER PLANE LIKE NO ONE'S BUSINESS?
Hardy first became aware of the paper plane throwing competition in 2015, when he was a student at Cal State Long Beach.
"I hadn't hand folded a paper airplane since elementary school," Hardy told LAist. "I just tried it out and I actually set the national record."
This highflier was a natural.
He didn't compete in the World Finals that year, but in 2019, Hardy flew to Salzburg, Austria for the competition and brought sweet, sweet victory to the U.S. by sweeping in the distance category. The other categories are hangtime (how long your plane stays in the air) and aerobatics ( the art of the loop-de-loop).
"Playing baseball growing up is where the arm came from for me," Hardy said, adding that fold and throwing technique are also crucial. Once he got to the top ten, several of his fellow American competitors coached him on the angle of his shoulders, as well as the fold of his plane.
His best tip on constructing a paper plane? "You want most of the weight toward the front of the tip."
We're taking notes, Hardy.
MEET THE CHALLENGERS
Brian Frank, associate editor, LAist: "I have a bad feeling about this," (original quote inspiration from the Star Wars franchise, don't sue us).
Lita Martinez, news producer, KPCC: "I've had a lot of practice throwing paper planes in high school detention."
Roy Lenn, underwriting coordinator: "All the glory might be mine today. Also, this is a fun work break."
THE ATHLETES PREP FOR THE BIG EVENT (BY FOLDING PAPER REALLY FAST)
And the reigning champion...
IS THAT A BIRD OR A (PAPER) PLANE?
At the Red Bull Paper Wings World Finals, competitors threw their planes inside a hangar where conditions were adjusted to perfection — no AC and no open windows— to prevent an errant draft of wind from wafting a plane off-course.
We tried to recreate these impeccable conditions at the KPCC office by clearing out a stretch of hallway in the second-floor newsroom and warning the suckers in adjacent cubicles to keep their heads down. (Nose to the grindstone!)
THE (SHOCKING) RESULTS
4th Place goes to Roy with 13ft, 3 inches (sorry, Roy)
3rd Place goes to Lita, with a soft landing at 15ft 5 inches
2nd Place goes to Brian! Coming in at a whopping 18ft, 6 inches
And... in a move that surprised no one, Jake takes the gold with a pretty insane throw of 48ft, 8 inches.
We tried so hard and got so far.
Okay, not that far.
Jake's plane actually flew farther than Roy, Lita and Brian's paper aviation machines combined.
Congrats, Hardy, you've won this time.
But we know you'll be returning to Salzburg in 2022 to defend your championship title. Until then, we'll be waiting for you Hardy. We'll be waiting.