Recently, dozens of swimmers braved the murky waters in Peatlands Park, Dungannon, County Armagh, for the 10th annual Northern Ireland Bog Snorkeling Championship.
Bog snorkeling? What in the wild, wild world of sports is that? Bog snorkeling is a sport dreamt up at a pub (naturally) in 1976 by Gordon Green and other regulars at the Neuadd Arms Hotel (which now also boasts of a brewery) near Llanwrtyd Wells, Wales. Bog snorkelers must complete two consecutive lengths of a 60 foot water filled trench cut through a peat bog, in the shortest time possible. Competitors must wear flippers and a snorkel but to make things more interesting, they can not use conventional swimming strokes. Most competitors also wear a wet suit, but that attire is optional.
The first Bog Snorkeling World Championship was held in Wales in 1985. There are other Bog Snorkeling events held in Wales, Sweden, Australia and Ireland. The current Bog Snorkeling world record holder is 19 year old Dinika Maguire who traversed the course in 83 seconds. When asked about her love for the sport, Maguire admits: "I'm mad".
Bog snorkeling is not just a crazy sport. The Northern Irish Environmental Agency held the competition on International Bog Day (the fourth Sunday in July) to raise awareness of the importance of bogs. Now only 9 percent of lowland raised bogs and 14 percent of upland blanket bogs still exist, for peat's sake.
For those interested in competing in the 29th Annual Bog Snorkeling World Championships, it will be held at the Waen Rhydd bog near Llanwrtyd Wells, Wales. Lonely Planet recommends the event as one of the 50 Must Do things around the world in 2014. Just don't drink the water.