As you struggle to hold a single beer in your hand, know that there is a man on planet Earth capable of balancing 237 pints atop his head. His name is John Evans and he is a superhuman.

This is not an exaggeration. In 2013, the University of Derby scanned John Evans’ body to determine if the 68-year-old was, in fact, empowered. Evans is a “head balancing strongman.” He holds 33 Guinness World Records for balancing eclectic items—101 bricks, 62 books, a 352-pound, gutted Mini car, two girls on two bikes—on the apex of his skull. By the time Evans submitted himself to testing, he had Stan Lee, the creator of Spider-Man, exalting him as a real-life superhero. Lee was almost right. Derby’s examination concluded that the Englishman’s bone density was comparable to a 20-year-old athlete’s. Whereas common folk’s bodies diminished with age, Evans’ skeleton grew stronger. Comparing him to a sprite twenty-something was, actually, a little unfair.

Evans was stronger.

Evans admits that he isn’t “arm strong.” He doesn’t go to the gym. In fact, he’s diabetic and only has one eye (accidentally shot out when he was seven-years-old). But he’s fit when it comes to stacking shit on his head. Where it counts.

“I’ve got the strong legs and strong neck,” he explains. “I have to move around to compensate for the weight I’ve got on my head. I do it completely with my hands away from what I’m balancing. That big stack of pints of beer, you can see me moving my head and neck to keep them up.”

Before Evans started stacking beer on his head, he exercised his bones as a labourer for a construction company. The piecework job saw Evans delivering bricks to the builders. The quicker he hauled the loads, the more money he would make. “I had this idea of balancing bricks on my head so I could roll out with about 24 bricks on me head quite quickly,” he recalls. With a wooden board and a Herculean work ethic, Evans enacted the dangerous plan with unexpected ease. Before long, he was dropping off twice as many bricks as his coworkers. “You soon develop a very strong neck. And the art of running up and down ladders all day long. I did this for about three or four years. I really enjoyed it. It was an everyday job. I did thousands of bricks a week. Then I went on to be a builder, so I packed that up altogether.”

It was only when Evans witnessed a strongman hold 24 bricks across his chest at a local fair did he realize his potential as a head balancing showman. He stuck with bricks at first, building an iron frame that he could carry bigger payloads with. “I realized I could lift and balance 50 bricks, which I stacked quite tall,” he recalls. “It looked amazing!” For safety, Evans designed his own head balancing cushion using a hat, a cut-up pullover collar, and gauze bandages. An evolved version of the hat would later incorporate sponges and silk as Evans’ finessed the design (and became fashion conscious).

Head balancing requires a zen state. Whether Evans is lifting automobiles, machinery, or towers of stout, his process remains the same. When the object is elevated, Evans steps underneath to find his desired balancing point. He takes a few “whiffs” to know he has the perfect spot. Then he inhales. Four deep breaths. When he’s centred, he takes one last “mighty breath,” lifts up, walks away, and the action begins. Over 10 seconds—a common world record time limit—he slowly exhales, like the most dangerous pranayama of all time. For Evans, lifting is all about control. Including the pre-balancing process. Evans stacks all the beers himself. Don’t fuck with his beer stacking. “If people want to mess you up, they could,” he says. “So I do it. You just stack 25 on a board and put another board on that. It’s all brute strength and dedication, really. It’s a very precise job. You don’t have to rush into it. You see so many strongmen bangin’ and bumpin’. I’m the opposite.”

There was no Guinness World Record for “Most Pints of Beer Stacked on One’s Head” until John Evans invented it. Which is not easy; The head balancer appealed directly to Guinness co-founder Norris McWhirter when he set his eyes on the prestigious book’s pages. “The problem I had was I was the only one in the world doing it,” Evans says. The two would eventually reach agreement, Evans co-penning the rules of the feat with McWhirter. Evans started with 100 pints. Easy. In 1997, he stacked and balanced 225 pints. Then 230. In 2002, he reached his current record: 235. If “The pint’s a pound, the world around” has any merit (math actually suggests it does, with a pint coming in at around 1.04375 pounds), that’s about 245.3 pounds resting on his crown, which is only around five inches wide. “You can feel it,” he says. “The pressure is immense.” That’s why Evans spends a few minutes every day lifting concrete blocks with his head. “You learn to put up with that pressure. You compensate with the wind, the ground you walk on.”

Evans continues to push himself. 2006 saw him conquer 13 kegs. In 2007, he balanced 429 beer cans (Cans are easier: they’re much fuller and don’t splash about”); At the 2013 Haifa Beer Festival in Israel, Evans put 275 glasses atop his head. He’s widened his scope to pretty much any object someone might pay him to balance. A strongman has to pay the bills.

There are occasions when Evans forgoes the balancing act, kicking back to actually drink a beer. His brew of choice? Guinness, of course (it’s good for the diabetes). And no, a little downtime won’t kill his momentum or threaten his titles. The perk of coming up with your own world record is light competition. “Up to now, no one else in the world has come close to me,” he says. Because he’s a beer-balancing superhuman.


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