For those with a passion for the slightly off-kilter, there are plenty of ways to take your scuba diving or freediving experience to the next level. From underwater pumpkin-carving to swapping vows underwater, people all over the world have come up with strange and inventive new ways to make the most of life beneath the surface. In this article, we take a look at three of the oddest underwater pursuits out there – some suited to scuba divers, others for breath-hold champions.
Underwater Ice Hockey
If the thought of regular ice-diving isn’t challenging enough, consider taking up underwater ice hockey. Not to be confused with ice hockey or even underwater hockey, this is a globally recognized sport played in frozen pools or ponds. Although a tournament held in Siberia in 2015 allowed its participants to play on scuba, traditional underwater ice hockey is reserved for freedivers. The game is played on the underneath of an ice rink measuring six meters in width and eight meters in length, by players equipped with a wetsuit, mask, fins and a hockey stick. The puck is designed to float on the underside of the ice, and goals are formed by holes cut into the ice at either end of the rink.
Like conventional ice hockey, teams strive to score points by guiding the puck into the opposite team’s goal. Each player is allowed to surface for air every 30 seconds. The game originated in Austria, where it was first developed by Austrian freediver Christian Redl. There is even an Underwater Ice Hockey World Cup. The first event was held in Austria in 2007, with the team from Finland emerging victorious. The second was also held in Austria in 2013 – but this time the home team took the win. Other participating countries include Slovakia, the Czech Republic, Germany, the Netherlands, Poland and Slovenia.
Extreme Underwater Ironing
Tired of mundane household tasks? Then you’ll love the idea of extreme underwater ironing. The concept is an offshoot of extreme ironing, a tongue-in-cheek sport that “combines the thrill of an extreme outdoor activity with the satisfaction of a well-ironed shirt”. The sport began in the UK in 1997, when factory worker Phil Shaw decided to spice up his evening chores by taking the ironing outside. The novelty of ironing in strange places took off after Shaw took his new sport on a world tour in 1999. Disciples of the sport have taken their ironing boards skiing, bungee jumping, rock climbing and of course, scuba diving.
In March 2008, the first world record for extreme underwater ironing was set when a team of 72 divers organized a synchronized underwater ironing event. In 2009, the record for the largest number of people ironing underwater at the same time was broken by a group of 86 divers from Britain. The current Guinness World Record is held by a Dutch diving club, who organized a mass underwater ironing event in 2011 that involved 173 divers. There are rules – ironing boards must be at least one meter long and 30 centimeters wide (and have legs). The iron itself must be real, and the garments must be tea towel-sized or larger.
If you had a soft spot for The Little Mermaid as a child, there’s good news – with a little talent and plenty of dedication, it is possible for those born with two legs to make a career out of being a mermaid. In the U.S. alone, an estimated 1,000 women (and men) make a living out of professional mermaiding. Led by industry luminaries like Mermaid Linden, Hannah Mermaid, and Mermaid Melissa, these people get paid to take part in underwater modeling shoots, and to perform for spectators at aquariums, resorts, private parties and children’s events. If you get it right, mermaiding can be a lucrative career – but it isn’t easy.
You’ll need to perfect your dolphin kick, a physically demanding skill that’s somewhat trickier when weighed down by a prosthetic tail. Shell bikini tops don’t afford the same exposure protection as wetsuits or drysuits, so you’ll need to have a high tolerance for cool water temperatures as well. Exemplary breath-hold techniques are a must, and silicone professional-quality mermaid tails can cost in the range of $2,000 – $3,000. There are several mermaid schools around the world, including this one in Hawaii. Weeki Wachee Springs State Park offers mermaid camps for adults and kids as young as seven years old, as well as a daily mermaid, shows in a submerged auditorium.