Each summer they come, on their annual migration to Bognor Regis, and launch themselves from a perch 60 feet above the pier. The ritual of the Birdmen of Bognor is 23 years old, the brainchild of a scoutmaster from Selsey, a village a few miles down the coast. (His troop needed to raise money for new tents.) The competition now draws crowds of more than 100,000 - mostly to the benefit of local businesses, although charities get a share. Photographs by Dod Miller

Strange birds: a man calling himself Dr Ulrich Strange and claiming to be a lecturer in mathematics at Oxford University, emerges (far left) from a giant cuckoo clock to leap into the water at Bognor. Birdmen at the rival Eastbourne competition included Andy Bloor (left), a local builder, and Alistair Myles (below) disguised as a flying fish For some of the birdmen, perhaps for most of them, dressing up in the costume is the thing. Others, such as Robert Hiscott, a 65-year-old architect who has studied aerodynamics, really want to fly. He won the prize for the longest flight at Bognor last y ear, and had to be rescued for his pains (far left). His son, Paul Hiscott, modelled his six-winged Bumble Bike (above) on the humble bee