HALIFAX - More than 100 extreme athletes from around the world began unicycling their way across Nova Scotia on Monday in a unique race called Ride the Lobster.

The 800-kilometre race started in Yarmouth in eastern Nova Scotia and will wind its way through 135 communities before ending Friday in Cape Breton at Baddeck.

The event is the brainchild of Edward Wedler, a bookstore owner in Greenwood, N.S., who saw an opportunity 18 months ago to promote rural sports tourism in his adopted home.

"Wedler's originally from Australia and when he saw a map of the province, he thought it looked like a lobster, hence the name,'' said Doug Dockrill, spokesman for the event.

"Each rider will do 70 kilometres a day. These are some extreme athletes riding unicycles that range in size from 20 to 36 inches.''

Typically, unicycles have no brakes and no gears.

"You have to use your stomach muscles and your thighs. It's just as much work to go downhill as it is to go up,'' said Dockrill.

The race pack, known as a wobble, includes world distance and speed record holders, including Kris Holm of Vancouver, a man organizers describe as the Wayne Gretzky of unicycling.

"He even took his bike up into the Himalayas,'' said Dockrill.

Participants are competing for $10,000 in prizes and cash donated by various unicycle builders and enthusiasts.

Many of the participants staged demonstrations over the weekend in the Yarmouth county area.

Jirana Messenger, 19, of Frankfurt, Germany performed what she described as "figure skating on a unicycle,'' something she picked up after she started unicycling eight years ago.

"I participated in a school workshop with juggling and unicycling like in the circus,'' Messenger said just before the race started.

The racers, members of teams from as far away as New Zealand, Singapore and Denmark, will be accompanied by mechanics in 35 vans.

Most of the logistical support has been donated, as various sponsors came on board.

Even the province's Justice Department got involved.

"There is no provision for unicycles on provincial highways in the Motor Vehicle Act,'' said Dockrill. "So we had to get a ministerial order ... and set up police and traffic control at crossroads.''

Each team has a GPS tracking unit that is tracking their progress on the Ride the Lobster website.