Cloud Chasing: Vapor as Sport and Art

Modern culture has produced some obscure and seemingly ridiculous trends. From fad to faux pas, where there’s a quick buck to be made, and a potential shot at even minute stardom within a particular community, folks seem to latch on to whatever is the newest hype that will net them strong positive results – or even just the potential of result. Vaping has become no different in recent years. From smoking alternative to prize-earning competition, the business of vapes is no longer as cut and dry in its intent as it was in its inception.

When vaping began to really take hold in the US (starting arguably around 2007), the industry had originally manifested for and was heralded as a smoking cessation opportunity. Vape companies pushed the notion of using their products explicitly, if not exclusively, as an alternative to tobacco cigarettes and other more traditional nicotine products. Mods were standard, liquids were simple, and most marketing/prominent display focused on the term “e-cigarette” rather than “vape” in the first place. Their main purpose still holds largely true for vape products and vape marketing today, save for a few lexical changes and the growing interest by the community to build mods and coils, as a hobbyist community is wont to do. By far, the most widespread purpose of vape ownership is as a tool for reducing or quitting tobacco use overall. But, where there’s a norm, there’s a fad.

How did cloud chasing start?

In select (yet growing) alternative circles, the act of vaping has trended to the level of showmanship and competition that potentially undercuts – or at the very least downplays- the functional, health-oriented origins of vaping technology for the average consumer. This trend is called cloud chasing. Certainly, it’s not new to the vaping scene – having risen to particular prominence around 2012 on the West Coast in the USA (where arguably most ridiculous American trends begin). But, since its inception, there is no denying that cloud chasing has accelerated the vape industry in its marketing demographics, uses for the technology, manufacturing practices, and even competition sponsorship and prize distribution. There’s even a Wall Street Journal article about it.

Despite trending status, most cloud chasing competitions are still held in local vape shops, drawing community, maybe regional attendance. Prize pools consist of small cash or gift card prizes, high-end mods, and e-juice packages. Yet, as the growth of vaping for sport continues, the community has seen companies/organizations like Vape Capitol, who host a touring cloud chaser competition annually, offering larger cash prizes and sponsorships for top competitors. Beyond the localized, national, and international competitions held across the country, online spaces such as YouTube have also helped greatly contribute to the growth of interest in cloud chasing in the vape community. There are now countless channels that document techniques, hardware, and tips for blowing thick, enormous vapor clouds with your mod.

What about vape tricks?

In addition to the competition cloud chasing events growing around the country, another aspect of vaping culture that has taken hold in the community is called “tricking.” Tricking is the process of blowing vapor in particular patterns, shapes, or to an usual effect. Over the last few years, vape tricking has also gained a foothold in the community largely thanks to video sharing platforms like YouTube. Some channels are dedicated to showing off tricks and profiling prominent trickers in the vape world. Others, still, are more technical or tutorial in approach and aim to guide vape users through the process of learning how to trick, themselves. Tricking, like cloud chasing, has earned a following and has its own place within the larger vaping community to expand interest and grow the industry in similar fashion.


While tricking doesn’t have the sponsorship, industry backing, or competitive edge that cloud competitions do, there’s no denying that the vape community has expanded beyond simple smoking cessation into myriad pockets of interest groups. From smoking alternative to cult phenomenon, vaping is bigger than ever in large communities comprised of all sorts of folks. And while not everyone is excited about this level of growth and exposure for vaping culture, if you’re the competitive type or the artsy type, thanks to fads and capitalism – there’s something for you in the vape community.

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