Where To Find Underwater Pumpkin Carving Contests

Throughout the month of October, divers across the country will plunge into oceans, lakes, and swimming pools to flex their subaqueous whittling skills.

By Jessie Schiewe

Fans of Halloween who’ve long-since perfected the art of transforming front lawns into spooky graveyards and clever makeup applications into otherworldly visages have a new autumnal challenge to look forward to mastering. In recent years, underwater pumpkin carving contests have become increasingly popular, offering scuba divers and horror junkies alike the chance to partake in something weird, festive, and far more challenging than it may seem. 

Because if you thought carving a pumpkin on your kitchen table was difficult, just wait until you try doing it submerged in water where everything, including your carving knife and the pumpkin itself, are liable to float away and curious sea creatures loom nearby. 

From beaches and lakes, to water parks, swimming pools, and quarries, there are a multitude of underwater pumpkin carving contests taking place across the country throughout the month of October. Many of them are first-time events, although some have been going on for decades, like the 20th annual underwater pumpkin carving competition in Modoc, South Carolina, on October 27.  

Their rules and regulations vary widely, with some competitions being open to swimmers of all ages and levels, while others require participants to have diving certificates or attend mandatory meetings ahead of time. For safety reasons, the pumpkin carvings are usually done in pairs of two, with many events requiring that participants arrive with a diving buddy, although some will pair you up with one on the day of. 

Divers showing their underwater creations at a recent event in Florida.  (Screengrab)

Divers showing their underwater creations at a recent event in Florida. (Screengrab)

Reservations and registration fees from as low as $0 to $50 for partaking in underwater pumpkin carving contests vary by event, with some providing carving tools or offering scuba equipment rentals, as well. The length of time divers are allowed to spend underwater carving their pumpkins also fluctuates, with some competitions allotting divers as little as 20 minutes and others as much as one hour.

Those looking to partake in an underwater pumpkin carving contest should make sure they are well-versed ahead of time about the event’s specific rules. Everything from the kinds of knives you’re allowed to use to whether you can draw or puncture your pattern into the pumpkin ahead of time varies from contest to contest.

If you’re eyeing an event that is BYOP (Bring Your Own Pumpkin), make sure you’re aware of the sizing requirements, as some require usage of one with a diameter of at least 12 inches. And, if your event does not permit tracing or puncturing a pattern ahead of time, make sure you memorize your design and practice carving it at home under normal, above-ground conditions before plunging into the water.   

While the majority of competitions ask participants to scoop the seeds out of their pumpkins ahead of time, some save that task for divers to execute once they’re underwater. If that’s the case with a contest you’re considering entering in, make sure you bring a mesh bag on your dive to stash the pumpkin waste in so that you aren’t leaving it behind in the water. 

Other helpful tips for underwater pumpkin carvers include wearing gloves to keep your hands warm and your fingers nimble while whittling your jack-o-lantern. This is less of an issue for participants competing in indoor or heated swimming pools where temperatures are more moderate.

To counteract water’s natural buoyancy, place a weight inside of your pumpkin to keep it from floating away mid-carving. If you’re allowed to bring your own tools and knives, consider applying weights to them ahead of time lest one slips out of your hand and you waste valuable time scrambling to retrieve it. And, if the rules permit, donning a pair of five-pound ankle weights will not only keep you steady as you carve, but will also help you conserve energy as you won’t be fighting against the water’s thrust. 

After the carving portion of the event, divers bring their subaqueous creations to land for judges to review and select winners. In Gone Diving’s annual contest in Bellingham, Washington, divers compete to receive awards for the lamest, most creative, or most aquatic pumpkins. Dive World Austin divvies its winners into three categories — Artsy Fartsy, Classic Carvings, and Mermaid’s Delight — while other competitions reward divers for creating the creepiest or funniest gourds in the lot. 

Prizes, more often than not, tend to be scuba-related. Among the bounties offered this year are a $200 Tusa Paragon diving mask, wetsuits, underwater cameras, diving regulators, and free class passes. Earlier this month, the winners of an underwater pumpkin carving contest in the Florida Keys, who carved a jack-o-lantern featuring two moray eels and a heart, were rewarded with a free diving trip for two at a Key Largo resort.  

Aquariums are also getting in on the fun of underwater pumpkin carving. Using hired, professional divers, aquariums, such as San Francisco’s Aquarium of the Bay, Newport Aquarium in Kentucky, Sea Life Kansas City Aquarium, Chattanooga’s Tennessee Aquarium, and Albuquerque’s BioPark Aquarium, will stream underwater-filmed footage of their creative processes throughout the month of October. 

Ready to experience this strange and soggy Halloween festivity for yourself?

Check out our list of over 50 upcoming underwater pumpkin carving contests to find one nearest you. 

(Screengrab)

(Screengrab)

Saturday, October 12, 2019

Meriden, Connecticut — Meriden YMCA
Cape Coral, Florida — Scuba Quest Cape Coral’s indoor pool 
Kankakee, Illinois — Haigh Quarry 
Cape Vincent, New York 
Tyler, Texas — Tyler State Park
Salt Lake City, Utah — Sand Hollow State Park

Sunday, October 13, 2019

Auburn, California — Sugar Pine Reservoir 
Kankakee, Illinois — Haigh Quarry 
Otter Lake, Michigan — Otter Lake 
Gibsonburg, Ohio — White Star Quarry 
Gore, Oklahoma — Lake Tenkiller
Vian, Oklahoma — Tenkiller State Park
Glen Rose, Texas — Wheeler Branch Park
Redondo, Washington — Puget Sound
Steilacoom, Washington — Sunnyside Beach Park

Friday, October 18, 2019

Orlando, Florida — Alexander Springs

Saturday, October 19, 2019

Mesa, Arizona — El Mar Diving Center’s heated pool
Avon Park, Florida — Lake Denton
Sarasota, Florida — Turtle Beach
Boise, Idaho — Quinn’s Pond
Belmar, New Jersey — Maclearie Park
Albuquerque, New Mexico — Highland Pool 
Volant, Pennsylvania — Strawberry Fields Quarry 
Graford, Texas — Possum Kingdom Lake
San Marcos, Texas — Windy Point Scuba Park
Grantsville, Utah — Bonneville Seabase

Sunday, October 20, 2019

Muskegon, Michigan — USS Silversides Submarine Museum
Corinth, New York — Conklingville Dam
Gibsonburg, Ohio — White Star Quarry 
Waukesha County, Wisconsin — Nagawicka Lake

Friday, October 25, 2019

Henderson, Nevada — Waterworld Scuba

Saturday, October 26, 2019

Mesa, Arizona — at The Scuba Shop
Beaver Lake, Arkansas 
Palmdale, California — Dry Town Water Park
Perris, California — Lake Perris State Recreation Area
Panama City, Florida — St. Andrews State Park
Belknap, Illinois — Mermet Springs
Traverse City, Michigan — Greilickville Harbor Park
Nashville, Tennessee — Pennyroyal Scuba’s indoor pool 
Austin, Texas — Windy Point Park on Lake Travis 
Huntsville, Texas — Blue Lagoon
Edmonds, Washington -—Edmonds Underwater Park
Steilacoom, Washington — Sunnyside Beach Park

Sunday, October 27, 2019

Peoria, Arizona — Christmas Tree Reef on Lake Pleasant
Redondo Beach, California — Veteran’s Park
Coral Springs, Florida — No Shenanigans Scuba Diving Center
Fort Lauderdale, Florida — Tigertail Lake
Billings, Montana — Lake DeSmet
Modoc, South Carolina — Elijah Cove Beach
Corpus Christi, Texas — Swatner Park
Terrell, Texas — The Scuba Ranch, a 22-acre freshwater lake
Garland, Utah — Camperworld Hot Springs
Tooele County, Utah — Blue Lake

Sunday, November 3, 2019

Hartland, Wisconsin — Naga-Waukee Park

 

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