When Taylor Overeem jumped into the room-temperature lake off Pine Barren Road in Bloomingdale on Oct. 13 with a knife, a hollowed-out pumpkin, the appropriate scuba gear wearing only swim trunks and flippers, he was focused on the task ahead of him.
What the Jacksonville Beach, Fla., man didn't anticipate, though, was that the water would soon feel cooler, forcing him to surface and change into a wetsuit before diving back in to cut a face into his pumpkin.
"It was a challenge down there," he said later. "We had low visibility. It was freezing."
He was one of four contestants in Jacksonville-based Atlantic Pro Divers' second annual underwater pumpkin-carving contest. The contestants had one hour to make their masterpieces. Stenciling could be done above ground during that time, but all carving had to be done beneath the surface of the lake.
Lindsey Bowen of Jacksonville, who competed last year and this year surfaced with an octopus-shaped carving, said things were more challenging this time around.
"A little tougher," she said. "Those knives aren't too big or too sharp."
First place went to Nikolaj Kavallar, also of Jacksonville, who carved a sea turtle in his pumpkin in 48 minutes.
"It's pretty awesome," he said. "I didn't expect I was going to win."
Atlantic Pro Divers plans to do an underwater Easter egg hunt in the spring, and next year's pumpkin-carving contest will be bigger and badder, said owner Bob Bunkley.
"Next year, we're going to do an underwater haunted house," he said.