20-year old Acton Beale is the latest (perhaps only) casualty of the odd pastime known as planking, or the lying down game. Beale plummeted from a seventh story balcony in Brisbane while attempting to plank on a two inch wide railing. His death has prompted Australian prime minister, Julia Gillard, to call for a ban on the extreme aspects of the activity. She said the incident was “really tragic”.
Planking began life as a meme in 2006 and become more popular on Facebook around 2009, though it has frequented other social networking sites. Plankers lie face down on their stomachs with their hands at their side and their feet pointed down, like a rigid plank, and have their pictures taken in this awkward position. They then upload the photo onto Facebook. The more public, more awkward looking and dangerous the position the better.
Queensland police fear that the rise in planking’s popularity will trigger more injuries and possibly more deaths. The Australian planking Facebook page jumped from 116,000 fans to 145,000 after the Australian prime minister made her announcement, and there has been a “global spike in the numbers of those trying out the trend,” according to the Herald Sun.
Beale’s death happened less than a week after an Australian man was arrested for planking on a police car, but law enforcement isn’t being too strict on the activity as long as plankers aren’t being stupid.
Police deputy commissioner Ross Barnett said, “If you want to take a photography of yourself planking on a park bench two feet off the ground, there are no risks to your health with that. But..when you start doing it seven stories up or lying across a railway line or in a range of other places that invite death or serious injury, that’s what we have a concern about. ”