The last weeks have been great fun in our household. Watching the 2016 Summer Olympics with my nine- and five-year-old children has been inspiring and the cheering and antics have been very amusing. The Olympics have been a coveted event in our family since my childhood, when my father (who comes from Germany) would sit and watch the Olympic gymnastics events with us. As a youth, he was on Germany’s Junior National Gymnastics Team. A torn Achilles tendon eventually forced him to turn away from the sport and pursue a career in academia, but he still races canoes and outriggers and is an avid sailor. My brother, who grew up with this same love of the Olympics became a nationally-ranked kayaker and earned a spot as alternate for the U.S. Olympic Team. Needless to say, we have all been very proud.
When it comes to me, however, it is not quite the same story. I have had my heyday bike racing, scuba diving and being a whitewater rafting guide (having mucked and swam through the best and the worst of Maine’s waters), but the likelihood of ever attaining a seat on the world athletic stage has been a pipedream…that is, until now. Little did I know that the combination of my wetland, rafting and diving skills might actually all be preparing me for greatness. Add to that my love of mud and amphibians and well it turns out I might just have been born to compete on the world stage after all. Move over Michael Phelps, Katy Ledecky and Simone Biles — I might just want to throw my hat (or rather snorkel) in the ring to compete in the World Alternative Games in the World Bog Snorkelling Competition!
World Bog Snorkelling Competition? That isn’t a real thing, is it? Why yes. Yes it really is.
According to that most trusted of information sources, Wikipedia, “bog snorkelling is a sporting event that consists of competitors completing two consecutive lengths of a water-filled trench cut through a peat bog in the shortest time possible.” Every summer, bog snorkeling is part of the “World Alternative Games,” which is held annually in Britain’s smallest town, Llanwrtyd Wells in Wales. In recent years, the competition has enticed more than a hundred competitors to join the mucky fun. In 2015 the bog snorkellers included participants from France, Holland, Poland, Sweden, Czech Republic, Australia, Japan, Canada, the USA and other countries. The current world record was set in 2015 by Haydn Pitchforth with a time of 1 min 26.00 secs. These World Alternative Games include not only bog snorkeling, but other enticing competitions such as underwater hockey, world bathtub championships, stone skimming and the ever controversial but wildly popular “wife carrying.” We know all about the last one here in Maine, as it is a staple of local competitions in the state.
While the basic event still runs, organizers have upped the ante’ in recent years. Bog snorkeling has become part of a larger event, called the World Bog Snorkelling Triathlon. The triathlon has official rules and regulations. According to the Guinness Book of World Records (of course they would be involved), to cross the finish line, “competitors have to run seven-and-a-half miles, complete two lengths of the town’s infamous 135-foot long, six-foot deep bog and cycle 19 miles across the most demanding of mountain terrain.”
Competitors in the bog snorkelling section of the triathlon must wear a snorkel and flippers and complete the course using flipper power alone. Wet suits are not compulsory, but are usually worn. But of course that is not all. This muddy extravaganza would surely be incomplete without an array of hand-crafted costumes (alternative uniforms, if you will). Take out your binoculars on competition day and you are likely to see human frogs, shark fins, superheroes and much more. They say a picture is worth a thousand words. I will do you one better. I invite you to enjoy the following short video clip, sharing the excitement and wonder of the bog snorkeling event:
In this week’s world that is shaken by earthquakes, deluged by devastating floods, recovering from tornadoes and dealing with political turmoil, taking a mental flight of fancy to imagine ASWM’s team entries into the World Bog Snorkelling Triathlon is very good medicine indeed. While this blog usually introduces thought-provoking ideas and developments relevant to the wetland world, it is nice for a moment instead to don my literary flippers and share with you instead this wetland amusement in all its glory. At 6’1” I can become The Hen Harrier of the bog, the lesser known cousin of The Albatross of former Olympic fame. And if I can’t make it to Wales, there are other bog snorkeling events in Australia, Ireland and Sweden.
This year’s event takes place this weekend, but there is always next year. Bog snorkeling. I. Was. Born. For. This.