When I received news of Australia’s Gold Coast International Marine Expo, I found myself lamenting the absence of similar spectacle at our own domestic boat shows.

High dive act

Boat show entertainment Australia style: Why can't we see a crazy man cheating death at a boat show here in England?

After all, as the Southampton Boat Show draws ever nearer, I already know that (just like every other year) its major ‘attractions’ will include the chance to chat with an RYA expert, watch a talk from an industry figure or play with a remote controlled boat in a small pool.

That’s all fine in a quaint, charming, small-scale, soft-option sort of way. But what about something you genuinely want to see – like a man setting himself on fire and diving headfirst from an 82-foot tower into a miniscule ten-foot tub. That’s what the Australian crowds will be enjoying at the Gold Coast Expo – and that’s something you would happily pay to watch.

Don’t get me wrong. With its feel-good vibe, sprawling outdoor exhibitions and enormous floating pontoons, Southampton is far and away the best of the boat shows we’ve got. But even its newest 2014 features are a bit safe and sedate...

We’ll get to see a Tall Ship called Phoenix (a replica two-masted 112-foot brig that has appeared in various films such as Alice In Wonderland and Clash of the Titans); and we’ll witness live tribute bands (including So Sinatra, Might Be Buble and Elton Johns) every afternoon from 4:30 to 6:30pm. There will also be a new ‘Boat Show Eye’ (like a mini London Eye, enabling visitors to get an aerial view of the show from 100 feet up); and ‘Bart’s Bash’ will be an attempt to set a new World Record for the largest sailing race ever staged.

But it’s hardly a high diver on fire is it? And for me, that’s the point...

Why can't we watch a man set himself on fire?

Gold Coast Expo: Why can't the British public be exposed to the same level of high-octane entertainment as our Australian brothers and sisters?

While the hard-edged theatre of Steve Black’s high-diving antics might conceivably be described as thrilling, I feel confident Southampton 2014 will come and go much like Southampton 2013 - with all the gentle, familiar presence and spectacle of a pleasant hot pot or a cuddle from your mum.


More outlandish adventure on the water with boats.com

Video: Extreme offshore sailing: what’s not to love?

Video: Surfing dogs loving the waves

Bad boys: 5 best Bond villain boats

Written by: Alex Smith
Alex Smith is a journalist, copywriter and magazine editor with a long history in boating and a happy addiction to the water. He’s worked on boats, lived on boats, bought boats, sold boats and – when he’s not actually on board a boat – he can generally be found in his Folkestone office, tapping away at the computer and gazing out to sea.