The Forgotten Sport of Octopus Wrestling

Jun 29, 2017 4 comments

One April morning in 1963, some five thousand spectators gathered on the shores of Puget Sound near the Tacoma Narrows, in Washington, to watch an unusual event—the World Octopus Wrestling Championships.

The rules were simple: teams of three divers would descend into the waters at depths between 30 to 50 feet, and try their best to grab an octopus and drag it to the surface. Whoever pulled the biggest octopus out of the water won the trophy. A total of 25 giant Pacific octopuses were captured that day, the heaviest weighing nearly 30 kg.


Neptune, under the appearance of a naked young man with a crown, fights an octopus with his trident. Photo credit: Old Book Illustrations

This rather strange sport has its beginnings in the late 1940s. In an article entitled “Octopus Wrestling Is My Hobby”, published on the April 1949 issue of Mechanix Illustrated, writer Wilmon Menard recounts a trip to Tahiti where he accompanied and aided a native hunter in killing a giant octopus featuring 25 foot tentacles. Although there is little similarity between the bloodless sport, that was to become popular less than a decade later along the West Coast of the United States, and the hunting of octopuses in the Polynesian waters, the article is generally considered to be the first published account of the sport.

One of the first world championship match, held on a rainy November day in 1957, in Tacoma, drew a crowd of two hundred.


In the American version of the game, there were two categories: one where you used scuba gear and other where you didn’t. You got twice as many points per pound of octopus captured when you did it without diving gear. While the animals are not very aggressive, divers had to watch out for the tentacles that could grab hold of their masks or the air hose cutting off air supply. But it wasn’t hard to pull the tentacles off, so it wasn’t a dangerous sport.

After the animals are dragged to the shore, they are weighed and once the match is over, the octopuses either gets eaten, given to the local aquarium, or returned to the sea.

Interest in octopus wresting died as quickly as it began, and by the mid-60s, such tasteless competitions were no longer popular. In 1976, Washington state hammered the final nail with a law that made it illegal to capture or harass an octopus.


An octopus washes up dead near Gorst, Washington. Photo credit: Christopher Dunagan

Sources: iO9 / Seattle Times / Vice


  1. Like all things that are fun, liberals outlawed it.

    1. How about we hunt you and then you can tell us how fun it is?

    2. Bring it, sissy!

    3. Aww, did someone take away your live action, forced hentai?


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