The last place an athlete in a wet suit, a pair of flippers and a snorkel expects to be competing is a bog.
Submerging their bodies into deep trenches of thick mud, people from all around the world dive into the Welsh bogs in August, competing for the top place in the Bog Snorkelling Championships. Classified as an extreme adventure sport, bog snorkelling brings weird, wacky and wonderful into Wales for a weekend.
The Bog Snorkelling Championships are held on private land near Llanwrtyd Wells, north of Swansea in Wales. It is the smallest town in Wales and also claims to be the smallest in Britain. However this tiny town is far from forgotten as each August, swimmers from across the world, even as far as Australia and Hong Kong, put on their snorkels and put their training into action.
This sporting event is far from a few laps in a chlorine-filled pool with a pumped audience. This is, after all, the Bog Snorkelling Championships and the name says it all. Competitors’ race for the quickest time of completing two consecutive lengths of a water-filled trench- 110 metres in total. The trench is cut from a peat bog, which is partially decayed vegetation. Rules are simple yet challenging for even the fittest of people. Conventional swimming strokes are banned and instead, swimmers must rely on flipper power alone.
The minimum age for competitors is 14 years old, however other than that anyone may compete, and Wales does a great job on welcoming all ages and nationalities. Last year, more than 150 people raced and even more are expected to enter this year as the event is becoming increasingly popular.
The current world record holder holds a time of 1 minute 23 seconds, with a speed of 2.95 miles per hour. Many try to beat it, however most do it for the laugh- competing in fancy dress costumes such as sumo suits. The competition also welcomes hundreds of spectators throughout the day- those cheering on loved ones competing or those just curious about an event that has taken place annually for 20 years. Allegedly, the idea of the Games was a result of too much Welsh Ale imbibed by two locals one evening.
Located in a valley in the foothills of the Cambrian Mountains, the host town Llanwrtyd Wells is a snippet of Welsh culture. This town is in contrast to its past history as a spa town when hundreds of people flocked to take the ‘sacred waters’ for so-called medical heeling effects. Offering beautiful landscapes and countryside, Llanwrtyd Wells today is renowned for its Lake Hotels, stunning golf courses and outdoor sports such as hiking, mountain biking and horseback riding.
The town has a population of only 601 people, so to say it has a close-knit community would be an understatement. The town hosts an array of festivals every year to keep tradition alive and spirits uplifted. Other than the annual Bog Snorkelling Championships, other festivals include the Beer Festival and the Man versus Horse Marathon.
Sounding just as peculiar as bog snorkelling, the Man versus Horse Marathon is exactly as it sounds. Held in June every year, runners compete against riders on horseback for over 35 kilometres. The race- which is just short of a conventional marathon- has only been won by a human twice since the competition began in 1980.
Wales is renowned for its vast countryside and love of the outdoor sport rugby. However this tiny town of Llanwrtyd Wells puts a new perspective on their famous countryside and sports. Turning one simple, natural bog into an annual competition hundreds compete in, it brings weird and wonderful into Wales. With locals praising their annual festivals, it goes to show even the smallest of towns may host the biggest events.
What extreme adventures have you done around the world?