An Introduction into the World of Competitive Vaping
Since the release of the e-cigarette in 2003, vaping has developed into much more than an alternative means to quit smoking. With its own well developed DIY centered culture, vaping has now become a mode of creative expression, a hobby, and moreover, a sport. Yes, Competitive Vaping is a thing.
When you think of vaping, one of the most popular images that comes to mind is of huge plumes of smoke being blown out of vapers noses and mouths. The art of cloud chasing, intentionally or not, has become one of the most well known and associated trends of vaping. Helped in part by the spread of viral videos of vapers blowing rings, shapes and other tricks. Although hotly debated, the image of vapers blowing complex weather systems has, in popular culture, eclipsed the idea of any other vaping. And it’s with this, with cloud chasing, that competitive vaping began.
What is Cloud Chasing?
For the uninitiated, cloud chasing is essentially the practice of blowing as much smoke as possible, sometimes in shapes or as tricks, and in competitions, this is what you’re scored on. Although more technically, it refers to the art of using sub ohm coil atomizers on mechanical mods. To some it may seem laughable to call vaping a sport, but to cloud chase competitively requires skill in modifying a cloud busting vape set-up, with vapers often building their own coils to lower the resistance of their vapes to the absolute limit. And it’s not without it’s own dangers, without an advanced understanding of Ohm’s law and battery safety, the batteries are likely to overheat, explode and cause serious damage. Cloud chasing in some ways is so detached from the original purpose of vaping that many competitors choose to use a VG (vegetable glycerol) liquid without nicotine, citing the purer liquid gives them a bigger and better cloud.
How Did Competitive Vaping Begin?
Although the exact origins of competitive vaping are unsure, most say that it originated on the West Coast of the USA around 2012, coinciding with the influx of vaping shops and culture, and the increase in social media visibility of both. With the competitions that small vape stores ran in-house gradually snowballing into worldwide competitions with sponsors, and growing financial rewards, competitive vaping has developed into a mammoth industry. Moreover, impressing in a vaping competition can provide global recognition and a vital foothold into the vaping industry at large, with many competitive vapers bartering their newfound fame into successful careers as retailers and manufacturers.
But what exactly goes down in a vaping competition?
Following the two most popular aspects of the sub-culture, the competitive categories of the vaping contests are clouds and tricks.
In the cloud contest, two participants are chosen randomly and stand back to back as a countdown timer starts. On a mark, the contestants inhale and blow out a single plume of foggy cloud, aiming to create the longest, cleanest and densest cloud in order to move forward to the next round. Within cloud contests, there are two separate sections, regulated and unregulated contests. Whilst the regulated require the competitors to have their device locked at a certain number of ohms, unregulated are more lenient. The one constant between them both is that they need to be performed in a room without a source of airflow in order to not affect the shape nor density of the clouds.
The second category, the tricks, is the most visually exciting and freeform. Usually given a one minute time limit, competitors are given the space to show off their best tricks, and just as in the cloud competition, the winner moves onto the next round until the last man or woman is standing. The trick category is so exciting because there are so many different types of tricksters and tricks to look out for. The Spammers are the most visually known, using their fingers to stack multiple O rings by gently tapping their cheeks. Then there are the Benders and the Runners, the former remaining static but using their bodies to manipulate the smoke into different shapes and the latter Usain Bolting towards the direction of the smoke to create shapes from it. And that’s not even the half of it. With professional tricksters constantly developing new tricks to outshine each other in the arena, the world of trick vaping is forever growing.
According to most competitive vapers, whilst competitions at the local level are more casual settings to meet fellow vapers and swap tips and tricks, the larger vape conventions are taken far more seriously. With a greater amount of foot traffic, crowds and publication of the competition across social media, large scale competitions offer the greatest risks and greatest rewards. Often performing at the international level comes with accruing a network of sponsors, promotional merchandise and free gifts of the latest and greatest in vape sport technology.
Whilst most prizes at vape contests are vaping gear and the chance to gain some cred with your favorite brand, some of the larger conventions and competitions are offering up some serious cash, coughed up by the organizers and big name vaping brands. One of the biggest vaping competitions in the U.S. Vape Capitol Cloud Championships awarded two grand prize winners with $10,000, with decreasing cash prizes for everyone up to 10th place.
However, not everyone is a fan of this subsection of vaping culture. With the already tenuous reputation vaping has in the public eye, leading to a recent debate on the etiquette of vaping in public, and increasingly harsh legislation under the new TPD regulations, many vapers are worried that cloud chasing is making a strong case for vaping to be increasingly policed and restricted.
Whether you agree that cloud chasing is ruining the image of vapers, or just another interesting facet of vape culture, you’ve got admit it makes for some damn good photo ops.
Leigh is a vape enthusiast and Director at Superior Vapour, an e-commerce brand that supplies vaping products, curated from manufacturers across the globe.