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15 Most Unusual Sports in the World

“It’s a strange world, let’s keep it that way”-Warren Ellis

The world is an unusual place, so it is not surprising that the world of sports would also have some unusual sporting events. Yes, we’ve all heard of the typical, popular games that are played internationally, but how about those unusual and weird ones? When we think of sports, the Olympics or the Superbowl are events that easily come to mind. But, there are many sports that are being played that don’t quite make it to that level; in fact, far from it.  They may not be your typical sports showcasing incredible athleticism, but they certainly are entertaining. Here are some of the most unusual sports we’ve found worldwide.

15. Apple Racing

The thrill of this race is in selecting the most aerodynamic apple to compete in The Great Huon Apple Race. That’s right!  In the city of Huonville, Tasmania, Australia, The Rotary Club hosts its annual apple race which involves tossing an apple from a bridge and watching it float approximately 300 meters down the river. The proud owner of the first apple to cross the finish line is the winner! We are not sure if competitors practice their tosses prior to the event. The Apple Race is part of a two-race festival called the Apple and Salmon Race Day Carnival. Prior to the apple races, numbered salmon are released down the river in the same fashion as the apples. The festival also includes food and produce vendors, rowing and dragon boat races, a cooking competition, andd music and Zumba dancing for all.

14. Bed Racing

At first, I was wondering if it was a race to see who could sleep the longest but after some research, I found out it was actually quite a fun team sport! The Annual Knaresborough Bed Race has been embraced by the people of North Yorkshire Town since 1966, and has been going strong ever since. The competition is open to anyone and consists of 90 teams of six players, each team has one bed. Each bed is uniquely decorated by the teams according to a yearly theme. It must have four wheels and be able to float. Why? Because after the one-in-five gradient steep climb up to a castle top, the team must cross a river with the bed. As fun and “cute” as it may sound, this 3 km long race definitely requires strength, agility, and training. In celebration, the winning team then parades through the medieval streets of Knaresborough to Conyngham Hall along with 20 guests, marching bands, troubadours, dance troupes and much more! There are also winners for the best dressed beds.

13. Canine Freestyle Dancing

For those of you who are wondering, yes dancing is a sport. However, now the question arises: must the contestants be human? Not in the Canine Freestyle Dancing competition! This is a recognized sport where dogs do choreographed tricks set to music. The events are judged on two types of dancing, freestyle heeling and musical freestyle. In freestyle heeling the focus is on the dog’s ability to “heel” to the music. The dog and trainer must remain close at all times and perform such moves as pivots and diagonal forward and backward movements. With the musical freestyle, the dogs must perform a variety of tricks that display their obedience – again set to music. Both heeling and non-heeling moves can be used and the trainers are allowed some distance from the pets. Moves must include spinning, jumping, bowing and rolling. In both styles, all routines must be performed without a leash or aids. Winners are chosen based on technique, artistic aspects and creativity. Oh, and most importantly, all dancers are dressed according to the theme of their dance.

12. Dunny Derby

Quite similar in nature to the Bed Race of North Yorkshire, is the Dunny Derby of Winton Queensland, Australia. For those of you who are wondering what the term “dunny” means, it is an Australian outback term for outdoor toilet. But this one has wheels. As part of Winton’s Outback Festival which is held every other September, Derby teams have five members,  one person sitting on the dunny,  two runners pushing, and  two runners pulling. The race is approximately 200 meters and starts off “Le Mans” style with a team member running to the dunny. The race includes performing tasks along the way, such as: emptying a bucket, finding toilet paper and cleaning products, etc. This quirky event awards prizes to the fastest dunny, the best team outhouse presentation, and the fastest loser (known as the Constipation Stakes). This event makes for some good fun and mayhem, but also requires some preparation and physical endurance!

11. Extreme Ironing

I was hesitant to include this one, but it was just so odd that extreme ironing exists that I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to place this one on the list. People who partake in this “sport” (we shall call it that), go to remote locations and iron clothes. Some have gone to extreme altitudes, some underwater, some have hung from cliffs, and or have hung onto the tops of moving vehicles. According to Wikipedia, extreme ironing is “the latest danger sport that combines the thrill of an extreme outdoor activity with the satisfaction of a well-pressed shirt”. The sport originated in Leicester, England in 1997, when Phil Shaw came home from work one day and didn’t feel like tackling the ironing that needed to be done. He preferred to spend his evening rock climbing, so he decided to combine the two, creating a new extreme sport. This sport should be done with great caution, as it one of those extreme sports where participators often cross the line of safety for fame and recognition.

10. Man vs Horse Marathon

Yes, it is exactly as it sounds! The only race where men, or women, race against a horse in a 22-mile-long course that consists of 3000 ft of bogs, crags and hills. Hundreds of runners gather in Britain’s smallest town of Wales each year to wage battle against their four-legged opponents who are guided by their jockeys. In the annual race, runners are given a fifteen-minute lead before the horses start galloping. And halfway through the race, the horses are given a compulsory “vet check”, (this time is not deducted), to make sure they are still healthy and well enough to continue the race. The head start and check are given to even out the odds for the human contestants. Only two racers in history have ever beaten the horses. Tim Gould in 1989 at the 9th annual race and Huw Lobb in 2004 at the 25th annual race. Many racers prefer to enter the marathon’s relay option, splitting the race in segments, while others take on the entire strenuous run on their own.

9. Goanna Pulling

Heard of tug of war? Then you’ll be semi-familiar with this sport. Goanna Pulling involves two people, face to face, connected by a heavy leather strap around their heads, engaging in what could be called a “tug of war”. Goanna Pulling is specific to Australia and got its name from the native species of lizards called Goannas that are found there; not because the sport includes the creature, but because the participants look like Goannas when they are competing. The Goanna Pulling championships have been going strong for the past 32 years in Wooli, NSW Australia with six divisions including: men’s lightweight, middleweight, and heavyweight, women under and over 70 kg, and juniors. Winners receive a Yearly Championship belt and cash prizes. The Pulling is part of a festive weekend involving different sporting events, which include wood chopping and the traditional game of tug of war.

8. Hide and Seek

The traditional game of Hide and Seek has just been kicked up a notch! Although airsoft and paintball do include elements of hide and seek, this sported out version of Hide and Seek is based exclusively on hiding and seeking, with no shooting or other external gadgets. Currently there are two versions of the game: Japanese and Italian. In the Japanese version, two teams of seven players battle in a 10-minute match on a fixed size field, preferably in a wooded area. In the first five minutes of the game, one team is given two minutes to hide in a 65 square foot area. The opposing team then has to locate and tag all of the hiding players. The Italian version separates the players into four groups. One person per group hides while the searching team counts to 60. Participants have 10 minutes to leave their hiding spots and hit a target in the middle of the playing field, without being found or tagged by the searching team. The competition can last for up to two days until a winner is declared! Believe it or not, there has even been a push to include this extreme Hide and Seek game in the 2020 Olympics!

7. The Juggling Triathlon

We all know the entertaining art of juggling and we’ve all heard of the grueling measures of triathlons, but very few have ever heard of the Juggling Triathlon. In this sport you must not only know how to juggle really, really well, you must also be primed and conditioned for swimming, running and biking, all while juggling! This sport requires both agility and a mastery of the motor skills required to juggle. The race begins with the swimming portion where the athletes are required to do the backstroke with both hands raised above water juggling their sets of balls. The next segment has the participants riding a bike one handed, or some races require a unicycle, while juggling. The final stretch of the race requires running while juggling.  If, at any point the jugglers drop the balls, they must pick them up and begin juggling again to continue.

6. Land Diving

Land Diving, which originated from the Pentecost Islands, is what we have come to know as bungee jumping. Islanders jump from 20-to-30-meter-high towers made from trees with their legs tied together with vines only and no safety equipment. They aim to touch the ground at least once. Unfortunately, it is not an exact science, and there have been tragedies over the years. So, in other words, don’t try this at home! This sport was considered a traditional fertility-rite ceremony only for males, starting as young as age seven. It has now become a major tourist attraction in Vanuatu. The g-force experienced at the very bottom of the dive is said to exceed any non-industrialized experience ever endured by a human being. Land Diving is considered an expression of masculinity, demonstrating the boldness of a warrior. However, the men choosing not to dive are not viewed as cowards, nor humiliated.

5. Fireball Soccer

Fireball soccer is similar to traditional soccer that is played worldwide, except it is played with a ball that is on fire. This extreme sport is a uniquely played in Indonesia to welcome the month of Ramadan. Known also as Sepak Bola Api, it is played by students to test their courage. Instead of a regular ball, they use a coconut that is pre-soaked in kerosene and is then lit on fire. The pre-ritual game preparations include fasting, soaking all the players in salt and non-flammable spices, and performing a prayer ritual that makes them impervious to fire. Just like conventional soccer, the game consists of two teams made up of 11 players attempting to get their ball in the opposing goal. However, in this sport there a few added difficulties: One – The ball isn’t really an aerodynamic ball, but an odd shaped coconut; Two – Not all players wear shoes; And three – the ball becomes flaming hot. It is pretty safe to say that there are probably no overhead “throw ins” when the ball goes out of bounds, and hopefully the goalies are allowed to wear extra protective gear!

4. Rock Paper Scissors

Not just a kid’s playground game anymore, Rock Paper Scissors has evolved into a sport with international championship play offs! The rules are the same: players simultaneously say the words Rock! Paper! Scissors! or Ro! Sham! Bo! then “shoot” out their choice of weapon. Depending on the country, sometimes the count stops at two words. The object of the game is to defeat your opponent by selecting a superior weapon using the old fashion guidelines. A clenched fist – the rock, wins against scissors because it breaks them and loses to paper as it gets covered, and stalemates against itself. Paper – where all fingers are extended palm facing down, wins against rock as it covers it and loses to scissors as it gets cut, and of course stalemates against itself. The scissors – which consist of an extended forefinger and middle finger in the shape of a “V”, wins against paper as they cut it, loses to rock as they gets smashed, and stalemates against themselves. The games are usually played in a best 2 out of 3 game match.  128 countries participate in the global tournament which is held annually. Contestants come in country-themed clothing or draped in national flags. There is said to be algorithms and strategies to winning in this “sporting” event.

3. Redneck Olympics

These games began in 1996 as a response to hosting the Olympic Games in the redneck district of Atlanta, Georgia. What started as a joke ended up as a fun, mini, annual Olympic-style event hosted by some rednecks! The IOC (International Olympic Committee) forced them to change the name. In 2013, the games were renamed the “Maine Redneck ‘Blank’ Games”. The events include: mud pit belly flopping, a seed spitting contest, hubcap hurling, armpit serenading, bobbin’ for pig’s feet, the cigarette flip, dumpster diving, and redneck horseshoes where toilet seats are thrown instead of horseshoes. Due to scrutiny, attendance and a bit of nuisance reported from the local environmental agencies in Georgia, the games were moved to Canada. Not sure of the redneck population there, but the games are said to be pretty popular and still going strong!

2. Tuk Tuk Polo

Tuk Tuk Polo is a new sport invented in Sri Lanka as a replacement for another version of polo played on the backs of elephants. Using elephants was stopped in 2007 when one of them went on a dangerous rampage. They were replaced with vehicles called tuk tuks. The field used for the games is the same size used for conventional polo and has two goal posts on both sides of the field. Each team has two players per tuk tuk, one driving the vehicle and one attempting to strike the ball with a short, mallet-like stick which is similar to ones used in the backyard lawn game, croquet. The object of the game is to get the ball past the goal posts as many times as possible. The game consists of two seven minute periods of playing time with a 15-minute break. There are three “players” per team on the field at a time. The first tournament of the sport successfully took place in February of 2017.

1. Zorbing

This extreme sport looks like fun! Zorbers are placed inside a giant inflatable ball and rolled down a hill. They must keep up with the pace of the ball or they will fall and roll and bounce uncomfortably. Even when they do, they still enjoy the thrill of the ride. A bit of water is added into the ball to so there is less friction on your tuckus while rolling after your inevitable fall. Adding to the excitement, people run in front of the ball acting as human dominoes. It is suggested that the dominoes be in good health and strong in stature to avoid too much damage! The sport of Zorbing, or “human hamster ball”, originated in New Zealand, but is now being practiced in many parts of the world.  

It looks like there are sports, or sports-like games, for everyone out there which happen to include pets, fruits, sleeping gear and toilet seats. Some of these sports are being played for fun and some competitively, but all are very unusual and not well known in conventional crowds. Despite the oddity of them all, differences are what make the world such an interesting place to live. Like conventional sports, these unusual sporting events bring people together from all around the world to participate in like minded activities. Many are part of bigger festivities that include food and music, and all are meant to bring fun and entertainment into our lives!

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