Start Your Engines!
The word’s out: DPV racing is quickly becoming a favorite underwater sport. And it’s not just for divers.
When I went to the Sport Diver offices to check out the See Doo GTI Sea Scooter, I was stoked. Not only was I heading down to Pompano Beach to dive the Tracy, a wreck just off Florida’s Atlantic coast, but it would also be my first time diving with a DPV (diver propulsion vehicle). To top it off, I would be racing in Formula H20’s Gold Coast Underwater Grand Prix – an underwater scooter race.
As expected, friendly dive banter was exchanged the night before the event – normal for a group who does this every few months in popular dive sites along the coast, including the Vandenberg, off Key West. But when it came to race day, these guys weren’t messing around. The dive boat was a choreographed mess of DPVs, dive gear and cameras. Racers either had handheld DPVs (like my See Doo GTI) or ones strapped to their tanks (like the Pegasus Thruster). From there, we were slated in one of four classes – Expedition, Modified, Recreational or Freedivers.
Once we were lined up on the sea floor, we waited for the countdown (i.e. numbers painted on both sides of a toilet seat). And when the horn blew, we were off. From there, based on your category, you made either three or five laps through the flag-lined course around the wreck. The noise of 30-plus DPV-clad divers buzzed through the water as each of us worked to gain momentum. I stayed towards the bottom in the hope that I would have the chance to pull some sort of random sneak attack maneuver. (That didn’t really work out.) But the race itself was insanely hilarious. There’s something to be said about a bunch of divers racing around the ocean like a group of kids on dirt bikes. One thing I wasn’t expecting was the freedivers (including current record holder Erin Duggan). They were like underwater ninjas weaving in and out of a bubbling mass of metal.
The award ceremony was held shortly after, with Dean Vitale, the reigning champ, passing on the “winner’s belt” to the day’s winner, David Uloa (aka The shark Whisperer). The belt itself was decked out diver-style, with gages, a mask, and of course, a blow horn. Want to try for the belt yourself? The next race is in Key Largo, in memory of photographer Wes Skiles. For more information, visit wreckracingleague.com.
Wreck Racing Fever
Start Your Engines!