Handful take their shot at carving pumpkins under water

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Mike Blee, a SCUBA diver from Coeur d'Alene, holds up the jack-o-lantern he carved at the bottom of Lake Coeur d'Alene on Saturday. Eight divers gathered at Sanders Beach for the third annual Underwater Pumpkin Carving Contest.

COEUR d'ALENE - In case you've ever wondered, pumpkins float. They bob like champagne corks, actually.

And yet, buoyancy notwithstanding, a small group of intrepid SCUBA divers assembled Saturday morning for an ambitious event: The third annual Underwater Pumpkin Carving Contest. Hosted by Divers West in Coeur d'Alene, the dive brought eight contestants to the west end of Sanders Beach - seven more, it should be noted, than participated last year.

The divers discovered firsthand that pumpkins do not sink easily.

"It was fun - it was really tough to get the pumpkin to the bottom to open it," said Mike Blee, a SCUBA enthusiast from Coeur d'Alene. "I'm not a big pumpkin carver, but it wasn't that bad once you got it to sit there."

Blee's spooky jack-o-lantern, carved entirely at the bottom of Lake Coeur d'Alene, would be good enough for first place. Handy with a dive knife, he was the first participant to finish.

Some of his comrades took a bit longer - fins often broke the surface, divers thrashing wildly as they tried to drown their stubborn squash. The contest rules are very clear: All carving must be done underwater, no exceptions.

"I had a little difficulty staying on the bottom," said Laurie Davis of Rathdrum, "but after that it was fun. I'll be back next year. A dive knife is definitely not as sharp as my kitchen knives, though."

Once the pumpkins were filled with water - a condition only achieved by slicing off the top - the divers could carve in earnest. Some created fancy designs, or used lake debris to add character.

As the carving intensified, hundreds of pumpkin seeds washed ashore on Sanders Beach.

"I gave it one of the tongue-out smiley faces, 'cuz it seemed like it was a sarcastic pumpkin," said Sandpoint diver Mike Spease. He'd been training for a while, and earned his SCUBA certification about a month and a half ago.

"Been looking forward to this one," he said. "Actually, this is my first non-training dive. Been wanting to do this for years."

According to Crete Colby, from Athol, SCUBA diving is fun because you never know what the next dive will bring. He might spot a fish, he said, or explore the sunken wreckage of an old boat. The lake always offers a new experience.

"Every time you do something, it's always different," he said. "(The contest) was a blast. Actually, it gets pretty easy once you start it."

James Flodin is a co-owner of Divers West, located on Best Avenue. The shop organizes several diving events throughout the year, including the pumpkin contest, an Easter egg hunt and a few pirate-themed dives.

SCUBA is all about getting out and having fun, Flodin said.

"The biggest thing is everyone had a good time."

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