The world of underwater sports has always been a little bit extreme, but as facilities expand and equipment gets better, the some of the things people do underwater have become very strange indeed. Here are six of the craziest underwater pastimes:
1: Scuba marriages
When the first scuba marriages started to happen decades ago they were nothing more than a curiosity- a quirky story to make up the numbers on a slow news day. Now, diving couples are taking the plunge (sorry!) in huge numbers.
Exact figures are hard to come by, but getting married 30ft underwater is now so popular that many of the world’s biggest and best dive resorts offer packages intended solely for those who want to tie the knot on the sea floor.
2: Underwater bicycling
Love riding your bike? Love swimming? Want to do both at the same time? Italian man Vittorio Innocente likes nothing more than taking a casual cycle across the sea floor. Last week he managed to smash the previous 65m record with a world-beating 110m underwater ride.
However, as the previous record holder was also Vittorio Innocente, who has the world speed record for underwater cycling too, it might be a while before specially adapted bikes appear in your local sports store.
3: Swimming pool target shooting
They have to clear the swimmers out of the pool first, but then again… underwater target shooting is taken surprisingly seriously. Several countries have national federations setting out the rules for tournaments, and there are world championships where competitors from all over the globe fight it out for the much coveted supreme underwater target shooting title.
Participants are not allowed a scuba tank, just a mask, snorkel, and fins. It’s a case of holding your breath, swimming down to the floor, shooting a specially adapted gun, and getting back up before you pass out.
4: Extreme ironing
The extreme ironing fraternity are a diverse bunch. They include scuba divers, rock climbers, mountaineers, and cavers. The goal is to take an iron and ironing board to the strangest and most difficult location possible, set it all up, and post the photos on the Internet.
The place could be a coral reef, a shipwreck, or the top of a glacier. In some cases, a specialized underwater camera may be required. As a sport it all began in the UK in 1997, when a bored (or possibly board) rock climber decided it might be fun to combine domestic chores with extreme sports.
Extreme ironing exploded into popularity a couple of years later and it shows no sign of slowing down yet. Tens of thousands of people have participated, some for the fun, some as performance art, and some for charity. The number of shirts that have been properly ironed under extreme conditions is not known but is thought to be somewhat lower.
5: Cave diving
A serious sport for serious people, cave diving is just like ordinary scuba, but in a more confined space and a whole lot more dangerous. Unlike underwater bicycling and swimming pool target shooting, this is not something to undertake lightly.
In fact it’s generally regarded as one of the world’s most dangerous sports, if not the most dangerous. Cave divers say that the thrill of exploring a place where nobody else has ever been outweighs the peril. For the rest of us it serves as a reminder that not all underwater sports are all about novelty value.
6: Underwater wrestling
One of those things that treads the line between pure silliness and a real sport with real athletes, underwater wrestling has devotees in both camps. On one hand are serious free divers looking to gain strength, self-discipline, and breath control.
On the other are people who get drunk and fall into a swimming pool. Will it take off and become the world’s latest sporting craze? Only time will tell, although most readers could probably hazard a guess.
Jess Spate confines her underwater sports to snorkeling, scuba diving, and getting rolled around in the waves after falling off her surfboard. When safely back on dry land she works for Appalachian Outdoors, an American camping gear company.