A Caribbean reef squid serves as the golden snitch in ‘squidditch,’ Blacktip Island’s new underwater version of quidditch. (photo courtesy of Joey Pompano)
A group of scuba-diving Harry Potter fans this week introduced squidditch, an underwater version of the quidditch game made popular by the fantasy series, played over sand flats on Blacktip Island’s sheltered west coast, organizers said.
“People’re playing quidditch with brooms and soccer balls, and tennis balls hanging out the back of their shorts, so we figured ‘why not do an underwater version?’ Goldie Goby said. “Instead of brooms, we use boat hooks, and underwater Frisbees instead of balls.
“What makes it uber-cool is we use an actual squid as the snitch,” Goby said. “We dope up a reef squid so it won’t bolt too far, or ink, and the chaser has to catch it with a lionfish net. Also, random squid don’t count. Or octopi. It has to be the specific snitch-squid.”
Players say the game presents different challenges than the terrestrial version.
“It’s’ damned hard to generate any speed, or maneuver, with an aluminum pole wedged between your legs,” Joey Pompano said. “And the squid’s hell to catch, even if it is drugged. The last two games had to be called before the snitch got caught because all the players hit their nitrogen-loading limits.”
Spectators had mixed opinions of early matches.
“It’s a cool concept, and early in the games it’s a blast to watch,” Ernestine Bass said. “But after a few minutes the sand gets all stirred up and you can’t see a thing. The players are supposed to stay up high in the water column, but when competitiveness kicks in, all that goes out the window. It adds to the challenge for them, but it makes for boring viewing.”
Local animal-rights activists were critical of the new sport.
“First they catch a live squid. Then sedate it. Then throw it back in the sea and chase it with nets,” People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals president Harry Pickett said. “It’s the definition of animal abuse three, four times over. Even if they don’t catch the snitch-squid, it’s still been traumatized.
“And what happens when the squid’s so groggy it can’t escape predators?” Pickett said. “The first game they played, a barracuda hit the snitch so fast all you saw was a cloud of ink and guts. Alison Diesel nearly lost her hand. We’re filing a lawsuit to stop this horror.”
Players defended the use of a live squid.
“It’s OK to use squid for bait, but not for a snitch? Please,” Reg Gurnard said. “It’s one squid, on a reef loaded with squid. And saving the snitch from ‘barras is added incentive to catch it quickly. That PETA lot need to get those sticks out of their bums and have some fun.”
Island authorities say the games are within legal bounds, if barely.
“It’s played outside the marine park, so we have no say in it,” Marine Parks spokesperson Val Schrader said. “If they cross into the park, though, we’ll be forced to shut it down. But until then, I have $10 on the Eagle Ray Divers team in this afternoon’s match.