Aquarium's record-setting director plans his next feat

What's harder than bending 10 nails in 21.13 seconds? Try holding back two airplanes for one minute once they reach takeoff speeds of 2,500 revolutions per minute.

What's harder than bending 10 nails in 21.13 seconds? Try holding back two airplanes for one minute once they reach takeoff speeds of 2,500 revolutions per minute.

Great Lakes Aquarium director Chad Netherland was just awarded by Guinness World Records for his nail feat, and will attempt to break the airplane strength record, now held at 54 seconds, this spring.

"It's almost been like a drug lately," said the nine-time martial arts and strength Guinness World Record-holder, "What's the next record going to be?"

Netherland, whose father also is a Guinness record-holder in the same category, grew up training in martial arts and holds a seventh-degree black belt.

Despite strength and endurance workouts, his many achievements can largely be attributed to conquering the mental aspect, he said, and pure physics.


"The human body is incredibly strong if you can position it correctly," Netherland said.

While he enjoys the rush of breaking new records, it's important for him to share his skills with young students. He also hosts events that help raise money for various local organizations.

"The titles don't mean as much lately as what you can do with it," said the 34-year-old, like using demonstrations to capture the attention of young people.

"It gives you a brief opportunity to give them a few pointers that you wish you would have got along the way," he said.

Lying on a bed of nails and having bricks broken over him -- one of Netherland's feats -- certainly gets the attention of kids, and that makes them more open to listening to advice on making good choices, said Todd Johnson, executive director of Duluth's Boys & Girls Club.

The organization has benefited financially from promotions Netherland has put on, and his demonstrations appear to stay with members.

"We've got one young man here, we can't keep any phone books around because he's constantly ripping them after seeing Chad," Johnson said.

Netherland's records include "most blocks of ice broken in a single strike" and "most concrete broken with a sledgehammer while on a bed of nails."


He is planning to use his airplane stunt to raise money for a local youth aviation program, and hopes to use one of the area airports. The planes probably will be Cessna aircraft, big enough to hold six to eight seats, and will be positioned in opposite directions with ropes tied to the aircraft and wound around his arms.

"It will be holding back at least 600 horsepower," he said. "It ought to be interesting."

Netherland's father, Dan, a Tennessee resident and 10th-degree black-belt holder, said everyone possesses an internal power -- chi -- that goes beyond what the normal body should be able to do. But few people learn to use it, he said.

"You make an all-out commitment, leave yourself no bridge of retreat and you give yourself completely to that moment," he said. "When you do that you have no limitations. That's what he's going to be doing."

Dan Netherland also demonstrates at schools, and said both he and his son teach kids not to accept labels and limits.

"Man has almost unlimited capacity if he just learns to use it," he said. "It's about focus."

What To Read Next
Get Local