THE World Championship Belly Splash is coming back to North Vancouver.
Longtime fans of charity, shenanigans and big waistlines will no doubt remember the popular event that was started more than 30 years ago. The first one was held at the Bayshore in downtown Vancouver but eventually was moved to North Vancouver's now-torn-down Coach House Inn to accommodate the crowds which seemed to get bigger every time it was held.
Pat Riccardi, producer and Grand Poobah of this year's revival which will take place Saturday at the North Shore Winter Club, was there almost from the start and remembers just how big things got.
"It was just a huge competition," he said. "They were bringing in teams from all over the world. They brought in some people from Samoa and South Africa and Hawaii and Europe. I think a team came from England once and Germany. It was just kind of a crazy thing. A couple of times on TV I said I hope one day it will make the Olympics."
Floppers put on a show while celebrity judges - remember the guy who played The Highlander? - looked cool poolside. The really great names belonged the people hitting the water.
"I had Vic 'Cannonball' Kennedy. He was one of my main divers one time. And another guy called The Rainmaker," said Riccardi. "This one girl called Attita the Hun - she weighed 650 pounds. Vic Cannonball was right up there too, around six or seven hundred pounds. We had the big guys, the big guns came."
The splash was held every few years, growing bigger and bigger as word spread the old-fashioned way.
"It was just sort of like a gravy train effect where one person knows somebody and that person knows somebody. It's like old fashioned Facebook. Next thing you know people are calling and emailing. Of course, they were sending letters at the beginning because there was no email back then when we started. There was no cellphones, there was no computers, no nothin'. We did it all."
Eventually the show made its way to the North Shore Winter Club in 2005 but that was the end of the party. Until now, of course. Riccardi and his army of sponsors and volunteers have splashed down again and Riccardi is guessing fans both new and old will be happy to have it back.
"It's a unique event that's been around so long," he said. "Everybody knows about it on the North Shore, they remember the ones at the Coach House. When you talk about it to people they always remember it, it always sticks in their mind."
The format will be similar - teams of one main diver with three backup helpers will perform a couple of elaborate dives with a halftime show in between - but the divers might be a little different than days gone by.
"Now we're politically correct so if you're skinny you can dive too," said Riccardi with a laugh, adding that several stellar teams have already signed up and are perfecting their routines. "They all come dressed up and do all kinds of craziness. It's like a big skit, a big show. It's like an original reality show, is what it really is. I just hope TSN picks it up one day."
Dives will be judged on criteria such as height of jump, height of splash, best midair pose and wildest costume.
The show begins at noon July 7 at the Winter Club. Tickets for the show will be sold at the door, $10 for adults and $5 for kids with funds raised going to the Autism Society of B.C, the CH.I.L.D. Foundation and the Lifesaving Society. If the venue fills up then there could be a waiting line to get in, said Riccardi. "It could sell out then it'd be like a concert. We let five out and three in."
For more information visit www. bellysplash.com.