Fabian Perez had carved pumpkins before, but before Saturday, he’d never carved one underwater.
Fifteen divers with the UF Gator Scuba Club participated in their first underwater pumpkin carving contest at the Blue Grotto, an underwater cavern located west of Williston.
Samiah Moustafa, president of Gator Scuba, said the idea was inspired by a similar dive that is done every year in the Florida Keys.
“Each trip we try to do something unique,” she said. “Bring in the aspect of the pumpkins and it gets people motivated.”
For the club’s end-of-the-semester dive in the spring, they went to the Florida Keys.
“It’s so addicting,” Moustafa said. “Stress free, exhilarating and relaxing.”
While Kelly Williams agreed, she said she was relieved that the contest was a freshwater dive.
“I’m glad we’re not in salt water so sharks won’t be attracted when I stab myself,” she joked.
After being cleaned out and drawn on, three-pound weights that normally go in divers’ weight belts were put inside the pumpkins.
One by one, the divers jumped in from the dock, pumpkins in hand, into the cold water.
Because Blue Grotto is fed by a spring, the cavern water stays around 72-degrees Fahrenheit year round.
“It’s colder when you’re just sitting there carving a pumpkin and not swimming around,” said Andrew Scholl, a freshman aerospace engineering major.
While the divers carved, they said that a snapping turtle and a catfish, along with other diving groups, stopped to watch them.
While half the divers carved their pumpkin 15 feet below the surface on a wooden platform, the others went down into the 100-foot-deep cavern.
The pumpkin designs ranged from fish bones to smiley faces and from bats to scuba flags. The first place winner, out of the five winning designs, was a pirate skull and crossbones by freshman Sean Deeb.