When it comes to water sports, the first thing that comes to mind is swimming. However, swimming is just one of many that exist worldwide. The Smoke Signal has compiled a short description of eight unique water sports.
Canyoning is a combination of many different sports including swimming, walking, caving, and mountaineering. The equipment includes a canyoning-wetsuit, water shoes, and a harness to rappel down into valleys. Although not a competitive sport, canyoning allows nature enthusiasts to intimately explore wildlife and dive in canyons that would normally be inaccessible. Canyoning combines landforms like mountains and rivers with physical activity to make an adventurous pastime for athletes and people looking for something new to do. Utah and Arizona are ideal states for canyoning in the US, although Southern CA has parks like the Joshua Tree National Park that offer canyoning.
Diving is an Olympic sport that involves jumping headfirst into deep water, often accompanied by mid-air stunts. Competitive divers are scored by judges on their takeoff, mid-air movements, and entry into the water; dive heights can range from 16 to 33 feet at the Olympic level. Since the sport began in the early 19th century, it has expanded to include unique styles of diving. Scuba diving is one such variation, in which a swimmer wears masks and air tanks to observe marine life deep in the ocean. Another variation, freediving, involves athletes reaching up to 700 feet below the surface of the ocean without the assistance of oxygen tanks for breathing.
Stand Up Paddleboard (SUP) yoga involves practicing yoga upright on a paddleboard in a body of still water. Popularized in the last two years, SUP yoga requires greater strength, focus, and balance than regular yoga because of the wind and natural currents that constantly move the paddleboard. Combining paddleboarding and yoga creates an intensive, full-body workout outside in the fresh air. Many experienced yogis use the sport to improve their flexibility and focus quickly.
Underwater hockey, also known as octopush, is a non-contact sport that was invented by the British Navy in the 1950’s to keep their soldiers in shape. Today, this sport is played around the world in a 25 by 15 meter pool that is between two and four meters deep. Players wear a large fin, thick gloves, diving mask, and snorkel. Two teams of six players each compete by using a 30 centimeter stick to push a puck into the opposing team’s goal. The game consists of two fifteen-minute halves, and whichever team scores the most goals wins. The first ever Underwater Hockey World Championships was held in Canada in 1980 — the event has taken place every two years since.
Hydroflying is a sport that uses a water jet to propel a rider more than 50 feet into the air, creating sustained flight. In competitions, riders often perform a timed free-style routine where they show off difficult spins and flips. Competitors are awarded points for their stunts and the goal is to achieve the highest amount of points. Many people also try hydroflying recreationally. However, hydroflying is not accessible to just anyone — a jetpack alone costs around $2,500.
Synchronized swimming is a mixture of dance, swim, and gymnastics. Athletes perform a synchronized routine to music in a 20 by 30 meter pool, with a minimum depth of three meters. Requiring tremendous amounts of endurance, flexibility, and strength, synchronized swimmers are expected to display an “illusion of ease” although prohibited from touching the pool floor. During competitions, synchronized swimming can be performed as a solo, duet or team as judges watching the routine look for precision, difficulty, and artistry of the performance. Synchronized swimming, also known as artistic swimming until 2017, has been an event at the Olympics since the 1984 Summer Olympics.
Both water skiing and wakeboarding involve being pulled behind a boat in a body of water and skimming the surface of the water. In water skiing, the athlete is pulled behind the boat on two or more skis, while in wakeboarding, the athlete is pulled while their feet are strapped onto a wakeboard. While water skiing is more for leisure, wakeboarding gives the rider a chance to perform aerial maneuvers and perform tricks in midair. Both sports have and world championships that judge the quality, creativity, and fluidity of the athletes’ performed tricks.
Finswimming is an underwater sport that uses fins and scuba diving equipment to propel a swimmer’s body forward. The extra equipment aids athletes in holding their breath longer and maximizes their full body strength to achieve their best performance. Finswimming can be done either in a swimming pool or freshwater body, such as a lake or river. The sport appeals largely to newer swimmers because fins help the athletes move faster through the water. However, finswimming also exists at a professional level at the World Games and Olympic European Games.
Cover Image by Sports Editor Anika Arora