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Big Ben Gets Layered

Remember New Zealand’s most beloved sheep, Shrek? In 2004, Shrek (pictured left below) was found in a cave after avoiding being caught and shorn for six years. He was carrying 27 kg (59 lbs) of fine merino wool (an average merino fleece weighs about 4.5 kg). Shrek’s huge coat of merino wool had kept him alive all those years despite New Zealand’s harsh, snowy winters and searingly-hot summers. Shrek ended up giving 22 kg of his coat to charity, but his recorded weight was never submitted to Guinness World Records. Icebreaker also stepped in to keep the newly-naked Shrek cozy with a specially-made coat, which he wore for an audience with then Prime Minister Helen Clark in Wellington (story here).

Now fast forward to just a few weeks ago when four sheep were spotted on the slopes of Mt. Ben at Omahau Hill Station after being separated from their flock for over six years. One of the four sheep, dubbed as Big Ben, had a very impressive fleece (pictured right below). Shearers decided to attempt to set the first Guinness World Record for the heaviest single fleece taken from a sheep. When the job was complete, which took almost 30 minutes, Big Ben’s fleece weighed in at 28.9 kg!


Woolly Kiwi Skateboarder in the Record Books

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People told me it would be near impossible to travel by skateboard, carrying all my travel gear in my backpack. 1.5 years and 12,159km later, I had not only proved them wrong, I was also a Guinness World Record holder; for the longest journey by skateboard (as seen in the 2012 Guinness Book of World Records).

The journey started in 2006; to cycle 12,000km from Japan to England was the plan. Somewhere in the depths of Central Asia, however, I got the idea stuck in my head that travelling by skateboard would be not only more unique, but also potentially more convenient; my daily budget was around $5 a day, and wild camping with a bike was a hassle at times.

I made it to Switzerland on my bike, and there I switched to the longboard and never looked back. The remaining 1,500km from Switzerland to England was awesome; smooth separated cycleways along the scenic Rhine river. Keen for more adventure, I headed to the US (crossing the Atlantic as crew on a sailboat) to skate across that continent.

I broke the Guinness World Record half-way across the US, but still hungered for more. No one had ever skateboarded across China, so that, along with the knowledge that it was home to plenty of fresh new tarmac, made it the obvious choice. China did not disappoint; 5,000km of the most buttery, divine pavement on earth, wild deserts, high passes, and diversity of culture made it the highlight of the trip.

All up, I travelled a shade over 25,000km over 2.5 years before arriving back home in New Zealand. I bought my first set of Icebreaker garments for the original bike trip (GT320 zip top, 280 weight midlayer, and a few sets of 200 and 150 weight base layers), and they managed to last me those 2.5 years of abuse and sweat and heat and frigid cold. 21 days without washing was my record for anti-hygiene, and the Icebreaker merino-wool goodness lived up to the hype. Thanks Icebreaker for your commitment to great design and functionality.

- Rob Thomson (, Guinness World Record Holder and Icebreaker fan.