Meet the man who held the first World Championships of Beer Mat Flipping in Hampshire

When it comes to world records, there is something to suit everyone’s competitive nature. From the longest fingernails to the fastest time to type using your nose, and from the most CDs balanced on one finger to the most T-shirts put on in one minute, it seems like you could find any activity and turn it into a competition.

Saturday, 15th February 2020, 12:00 am
Updated Saturday, 15th February 2020, 2:12 pm

And that’s exactly what Richard Banks, from Warsash, thought when he was sitting in a Dutch pub with his friends on a stag-do.

‘We were all sat quietly flipping beer mats,' explains the 37-year-old electrician.

‘I have always liked doing things a bit differently. I think I’m quite wired.

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Sam Withers taking part in the Beer Mat Flipping World Championships held in Warsash, Hampshire this weekend. © Simon Czapp/Solent News & Photo Agency

‘I said at the stag-do I wanted to do the world championships in beer mat flipping and they needed to make me do it and hold me accountable.

‘That made me think, “I have to do this”.’

Less than a year on from his light-bulb moment in April 2019, Richard successfully held the inaugural World Championships of Beer Mat Flipping in his home village of Warsash on February 8.

After raising £750 for Titchfield-based charity Breast Cancer Haven and crowning two beer-mat-flipping champions, Richard vows the event will be returning next year.

Event organiser Richard Banks. Picture: Duncan Shepherd

‘My idea was the driving force behind this but I couldn’t have done it without my girlfriend Lana,’ he explains.

‘Like many people, I left the idea for a bit and then when I went down to my local pub, The Ship and Shovel, I booked a date for the event.’

Although not an avid beer-mat-flipper himself, Richard said he believed in his idea and hoped local people would get behind him.

‘I spoke to a lot of businesses and some were rather sceptical about the idea and didn’t take me seriously. But it’s about getting past those people. You can’t let it get to you or put you off.

Pedro Balthazar in action at the Beer Mat Flipping World Championships held in Warsash, Hampshire this weekend. © Simon Czapp/Solent News & Photo Agency

‘It was my idea and I followed it through.

‘The best way was calling up people and actually speaking to them.’

And through word of mouth and many bribing phone calls, the championships partnered with a number of companies, including Thirstys.

Richard explains: ‘Thirstys is the nation’s leading beer mat printer.

Luke Collier Attemps 60 beer mats in the Master Flip. Picture: Duncan Shepherd

‘I told them about what we were doing and they seemed very onboard. They designed and produced more than 2,000 beer mats completely free.’

Despite support, Richard still had to dig into his pocket to fund the event.

‘Realistically the biggest contributor was myself. I spent around £800 on this project.’

He laughs and says: ‘I bought myself my own championships.’

Unsurprisingly, the unique idea attracted attention and it wasn't long before Richard’s phone was ringing off the hook.

‘I have been on TalkSport, Heart Radio, BBC Solent and more,’ he says.

‘I knew people would be interested, but I didn’t think it would be so easy to grab their attention.’

The founder derived two categories for competitors to have a stab at – speed flip and master flip.

The basic foundation of beer mat flipping is spinning a beer mat 180 degrees and catching it in mid-air in the same hand. Richard’s Master Flip category challenged competitors to see how many they could flip at once.

He adds: ‘I was thinking how can I encourage people to do things differently, so came up with the Speed Flip. It’s how many beer mats you can flip in 10 seconds.’

Pedro Balthazar, winner of the Speed Flip category, said he had never flipped beer mats before the day of the competition.

The 41-year-old swimming pool engineer says: ‘It was absolutely brilliant.

‘It was my birthday and my friend said he was going along so I joined him,’ adds Pedro, from Locks Heath.

‘I wasn’t going to enter, I was going along for moral support.

‘But I did. I started at 19 seconds and got down to 10.4 seconds, which won me the title.’

Champion of the Master Flip, 30-year-old Luke Collier, laughs and says: ‘I didn’t actually go down with the purpose of entering. I wanted to be more of a spectator.

‘I started practicing over the bar and flipped 50 quite easily. I saw on the board that the gentleman in the lead had flipped 57. No one could beat it for three hours. Then I got 60, sat down and had a drink.

‘Then someone got 61, 62 and so on so I started competing again.

‘There was only 15 minutes to go until the whole event ended that I got 65. It flew by.

Now Luke, a grounds maintenance worker from Warsash, has had a taste of what championships are like, he wants to beat the Guinness World Record.

He adds: ‘The world record is 112-116 mats at once. I flipped 65.

‘I couldn’t believe I had won it. It was overwhelming.’

Richard adds: ‘Everyone was cheering and getting involved.

‘It was such a good atmosphere. The only way I can describe it is like a pub at Christmas time.’

With more than 80 competitors and spectators, Richard and the two champions are hoping for an even better turn-out next year.

‘I will be back to defend my title,’ says Pedro.

‘I have already been practicing,’ says Pedro.

Luke adds: ‘It was fantastic and we raised money for a charity at the same time.’

‘I will definitely be back next year and hopefully will see more spectators and competitors.’

THE LEADERBOARD

After five hours of blood, sweat and tears for 10 contestants, the results were revealed and champions were crowned.

For the Master Flip category – which is where you flipped as many beer mats as you could at once – the results were:

• Luke Collier – 65

• Mark Gulliford – 62

• James Poulton – 61

• Sam Withers – 57

• Craif Fox – 46

For the Speed Flip category – testing how many beer mats you can flip in 10 seconds – the results, recorded in seconds, were:

• Pedro Balthazar – 10.40

• Kev Huelin – 11.97

• Tony Barfoot – 12.69

• Shane Crossman – 13.44

• Gary Pullen – 13.90

For more information, go to beermatflipping.co.uk.