The annual Ice Hole Festival will be Held Feb 9th – 12th at Lake Okoboji, Iowa, attracts hundreds of ice divers.
The Ice Hole Festival started as a check on a scuba divers bucket list. A diver walked into International Scuba in Carrollton, Texas. He inquired about scuba diving under ice. Everyone knows there is no ice in Texas. So, Richard Thomas, owner of International Scuba, called his friends in South Dakota, which is known for its ice.
Meeting up with Colonel Echols of Land Shark Scuba in Sioux Falls, they organized the first weekend of ice diving. Locals showed up to watch the crazy Texans willing to risk freezing on a -20F day. It turned out the joke was on them. Everyone had so much fun and bonded while completing an extreme sport that a pact was made to repeat it again next year with the locals. So became the legend of the Ice Hole Festival.
Richard Thomas explains, “The mission of the Ice Hole Dive Fest is to create a gathering of scuba divers that want to expand their skill set. Also, to foster working relationships with Scuba Dive centers from all reaches of North America.” To get started a shop sponsors an Ice Diving Instructor. They are now considered a stakeholder. They can benefit each year because the infrastructure is already in place. In future years, the Scuba Dive shops just need to reserve their space.
The event has grown every year. It now draws certified scuba divers from Canada, Mexico, Florida, Arkansas, Texas, Illinois, and California. According to Thomas, “The unique nature of the environment seems to really attract the southern scuba divers that want to test their skill in a harsh environment. And the Friday Night Ice Hole Cutting and bon fire has become legendary. It includes pizza, drinks that warm your heart and toes, and a bonfire on ice.”
The added benefit is more and more Scuba Dive shops get a chance to collaborate on other events during the year. For example, Ocean Impact out of Arkansas hosts a spearfishing tournament. Each year, the other shops are eager to support that event – hosted by Justin Sours. It allows shops that typically have a small gathering of local scuba divers to show off the best they have to offer and create a larger following.
The Ice Hole Festival grows the diving industry and has created what they like to call a Scuba Mafia. A collection of Scuba Dive Shop owners that are willing to share the limelight and have their divers be the winners.
Thanks to world renowned, award winning underwater photographer Tom St George from Tulum, Mexico, everything gets documented by him and his camera.
PADI has generously stepped up as our headline sponsor providing unparalleled access to ice training for both Instructors and divers and will be primary the certification delivered on-site. However, all shops and agencies are welcome to participate and use our logistics, we have shops from SDI and SSI attending as well.
Are you ready to step up and earn a place with the Ice Hole divers? All you need is an adventurous spirit and questionable judgement. The entrance fee for the event is $200.00. That includes 2 days of diving, an event shirt, entrance to Social, hot lunch, and drinks on ice.
Thursday and Friday there will be professional level training for any scuba instructors or assistants wanting to become Ice Dive Instructors. Certifications are purchased through your local shop. If you don’t have a participating shop, we can get you set up with one of our collaborating dive shops.
You can sign up online here. You can also call the shop at 972-416-8400. Divers that have gear rental needs please call the shop or email [email protected]. We have tanks at the event for those flying in.