Friday, October 22, 2010

Weird Sports, Vol 3: Bog Snorkelling

Pictured: a fool, awash in foolishness.

Weird Sports is a semiregular feature I write for the Rec Services blog at Trinity Western University as a favour to a good friend of mine. It will appear on PITB on Thursdays. Yesterday was Thursday--it's late. Whatever. You're not my dad. Let us take a break from our Canuckness and appreciate that Canadians are a hockey-loving people, and not the sort that love dumb sports like this one.

Have you ever been snorkelling? It’s wonderful. I highly recommend snorkelling along the Hawaiian cost, where the water is warmed by the hot, Pacific sun, and a rainbow of marine life swirls in and out of the reefs just beneath you. In Hawaii, the water is crystal clear, and the sights are equal parts sublime and beautiful. The experience is legendary. I’ve done it twice, and I can assure you of one thing: while I was there, snorkelling, surveying all that God has made and placed underwater, I never once thought, Man, I want to do this in a peat bog.

Unfortunately, others have. Bog snorkelling is an event that takes place primarily in the dense Waen Rhydd peat bog of Llanwrtyd Wells at the World Bog Snorkelling Championship. It’s sporting event that consists of competitors completing two consecutive lengths of a 60-yard (55 m) water-filled trench cut through this bog in the shortest time possible. Competitors must wear snorkels and flippers and complete the course without using conventional swimming techniques for some reason, relying on flipper power alone. Let us, at this moment, realize that kicking one’s feet is a conventional swimming technique, and this sport is so stupid even its most basic rules contradict themselves. From Wikipedia:

The World Bog Snorkeling Championship, first held in 1985, [...] now attracts more than 200 entrants each year and is currently sponsored by Fun Swim Shop. [...] Dan Morgan of Brecon is the new world record holder with the time 1 minute 30.66 seconds, having shattered the previous record set by Joanne Pitchforth. Dan Morgan is the current men’s champion, Dineka Maguire is the current women’s champion, and John Hilliard the current champion junior bog snorkeller.


That’s right, junior bog snorkeller. They’ve already gotten to our kids. We fought the bog, and the bog won.

Before I go any further, I need to draw your attention to an international conspiracy I may be the first person to have noticed. Do you recognize the name Llanwrtyd Wells? You should, as it’s also the site of the Man Versus Horse Marathon, the first entry in the Weird Sports series. In fact, you might also be interested in knowing that the sport of Bog Snorkelling was invented by wealthy land/pub owner Gordon Green, who also devised and organized the original Man/Horse challenge. In both cases, the sport began as a conversation among the drunks in his pub, and was immediately turned into a paean to human stupidity by Gordon. Thinking about it, he may be perhaps the most internationally successful community organizer since Barack Obama. And he doesn’t even have a Wikipedia entry.

Want to know what else is interesting about Llanwrtyd Wells? This:

Llanwrtyd Wells was once a spa town following the discovery of waters with amazing healing properties in 1732, by the Rev. Theophilus Evans. The wells were referred to as “Ffynnon Ddrewllyd” or Stinking Well because of the smell of hydrogen sulphide gas that was given off when you breathed the vapours. Spa fashion reached its peak in the Victorian era and many of the hotels in Llanwrtyd Wells date back to these times. The Belle Vue Hotel was built in 1843 and is the only purpose built hotel in Llanwrtyd Wells.


That’s right. Llanwrtyd Wells, the smallest town in Britain at 601 people and known primarily for a dense peat bog that reeks of sulfur, was once a spa town. This place is the home of the greatest con of all time, and it persists to this day. These people have been coming up with innovative ways to promote and make money from this awful bog for over 200 years. First, the spa scheme (as bogus a scheme as I’ve ever heard), then the craze of bog snorkelling. It’s a town of flimflam salespeople stimulating tourism with bogus reasons to visit a bog, and Gordon Green is their king. How else do you operate a pub in a town of 600 people?

How do I know for sure that this is a crazy scam? The other events that take place in this bog. There’s The World Mountain Bike Bog Snorkelling Championships, in which bog-snorkellers race along the floor of the bog on bicycles with lead in the tires, weighed down by backpacks also filled with lead. If extreme cycling isn’t extreme enough, try adding the threat of drowning, which is ever-present:

Participants sometimes panic in the murky depths—in 2000, one woman had to be rescued twice before eventually winning the female title—but thanks to vigilant, wetsuited medics, all the entrants in the race’s eight-year history have made it out alive.


Wicked. There’s also the BMX Bog Triathlon, which combines all the dumb sports Llanwrtyd Wells is known for into one extremely dumb sport. In this one, contestants have to run seven and a half miles, snorkel two lengths of the stupid bog, and then cycle to the finish line.

Part of me wishes I lived near this bog, because I could come up with all sorts of sweet, bog-related athletics. Basketbog, wherein competitors play basketball in the bog; Red Bog Rover, where two teams play red rover on the shores of the bog, but you have to swim the length of the bog for no reason when you’re called over; Blogging, which has nothing to do with online journalling and everything to do with eating a bogwater-logged log while in the bog; and The Bog Chug, where competitors drink bog water until they suffer acute organ failure.

What say we rent a single engine plane and fly to Llanwrtyd Wells right now?

3 comments:

  1. I have to say this is the funniest thing I have read all week. Yeah let's go!

    ReplyDelete
  2. I can't believe this is real.

    ReplyDelete
  3. It is totally real. It is Wales. If you have ever been to Bangor in the rain, you understand the desire to drown yourself for fun.

    ReplyDelete

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