Do you consider yourself a sporty person, but find mainstream sports like football or basketball boring? Why don´t you try octopus wrestling? This action-filled water sport reached its popularity peak in America (of course) in the 1960s, with annual World Octopus Wrestling Championships held in Puget Sound, Washington. The events were televised and attracted thousands of spectators. Afraid that the event wouldn’t live up to the hype (seriously, how could it), in the 1963 World Championship, organizers made sure to place octopi around and near the beach to ensure performances and action would be enough to satisfy attendants and those watching from home.
The aim of this sport (or as the octopi call it, a home invasion) was to dive into the water and wrestle an octopus to the surface, with points awarded based on the weight of the octopus and whether or not you used breathing equipment. Yes, I said was; a mid-70s state law made it illegal to harass seafood without an intent to eat it, putting an end to this unthinkable spectacle.
If this is so far piquing your interest, but you’re concerned about the danger of octopus wrestling, don’t worry. First of all, it’s not really wrestling, but the divers would rather reach down into holes and crevices and pull the octopus until the suction from the animal’s tentacles was released, allowing it to easily be removed from the rocks and brought to the surface. Second, the octopi aren’t the deep sea mythological monsters you might be imagining; the largest octopi wrestled in the World Championship in ’63 weighed in at 57 pounds. Third, the octopi aren´t very strong or fast.
With the sport being outlawed, and a 2013 scandal making octopus hunting in and around Puget Sound illegal, I fear whatever excitement I might have stoked for the reader was for nothing. Even three-time world champion Gary Keffler said in a 2017 interview that he agrees with today’s prevailing attitudes and laws protecting octopi (Keffler once motivated the sport by saying, “it was something to do I guess, go ‘rassle an octopus). However, though the sport is no more, I think we are all a little bit more amazed about the world now than before we knew that octopus wrestling ever was a thing.