Paddle your own pumpkin: racers descend on Belgian pond

by Jacob Fuller


Hundreds of competitors, many dressed up as pirates, nuns, animals, or vegetables, climbed into carved-out pumpkins and paddled them around a pond in northern Belgium, in an annual relay race.

The race in Kasterlee started in 2008 after local growers decided they needed to find a different use for their 880-pound pumpkins besides turning them into soup, and it has grown in popularity, said local Pumpkin Society chairman Paul Boonen.

This year, after a two-year break for COVID-19, it was fully booked inside three days with 65 teams of max four who took turns the week before Halloween to manhandle a fleet of around 20 of the hollowed-out vegetables.

Finding pumpkins of the right size is getting harder, Boonen said, with many locally grown ones now too big to float, topping out at more than 2,000 pounds.

“My boyfriend told me about this event on one of our first dates and I thought it was hilarious”, said contestant Clara De Somer, who dressed up as a shark in Sunday’s event.

Racing the huge vegetables takes some skill — “when you paddle, it doesn’t move forward but starts spinning”, local competitor Jonas Verbruggen said — and this year some fell in the water after their pumpkins took too much water.

Racer Oscar Guell, a Spaniard living in Brussels, called the experience “dirty, sticky and oily” — before gleefully adding that he’d definitely be back next year.

Copyright 2022 Thomson/Reuters