While in some countries soccer and basketball are the most popular sports, for other countries, the most popular pastime is a little bit different. From wife carrying to toe wrestling, countries around the world have come up with their own unique ways to stay fit and active, and have some fun. Check out these weird sports around the world.
1. Toe Wrestling
You’ve heard of arm wrestling, you’ve heard of thumb wrestling, but have you heard of toe wrestling? The game began in 1974 in Staffordshire, England as a way to produce an English world champion in a sport, so the story goes… In the game, players take off their shoes and socks and link their toes together. The goal is to pin down the other competitor’s foot for at least three seconds before yours goes down. The winner goes on to play the next contestant. Each year, you can find the World Toe Wrestling Championships in Bentley Brook Inn, in Fenny Bentley, England, and the current world champion in toe wrestling is Alan “Nasty” Nash.
2. Extreme Ironing
This isn’t your mother’s ironing. Extreme Ironing brings the household chore to a whole new level. In this unusual sport, competitors literally iron clothes on a full ironing board while practicing other extreme sports. Competitors bring their ironing boards to remote locations, such as the top of a cliff, a beach cave, or while performing other sports. So far, ironing has taken place while skiing, canoeing, parachuting, or underwater. The sport was created in England, though its exact origins are debatable. Some say it began in 1997 when Leicester resident, Phil Shaw, wanted to go rock climbing but needed to do some chores. In the end, he brought the ironing board rock climbing with him. However, other people say the sport started over a decade earlier in 1980 by an Englishman named Tony Hilam, who sought to make a performance art piece of ironing in bizarre locations.
This sport began in 1976 in Llanwrtyd, Wales as the result of a bar conversation. In bog snorkeling, competitors must snorkel through a bog, or a wet, muddy marsh area. Donning wetsuits, snorkels, and flippers, these pros compete to swim through the bog in the fastest time without using traditional swim techniques. Competitors, instead of using backstroke or freestyle, must rely on “flipper power” alone. The full course is two laps around the 180-foot lanes. The Bog Snorkeling Championship happens every year in August, in Waen Rhydd, Wales. The current champion is Neil Rutter, with a time of 1:18, while the female champion is Paddy Lambe, with a time of 1:19. Aside from competing for fastest time, contestants can also be given prizes for the craziest or wildest costumes at the competition.
Have you ever had such a frustrating experience playing chess that you just want to beat something up? Try out Chess Boxing! Chess Boxing is exactly as it sounds, the combination of chess and boxing, designed to be the ultimate workout for both the body and the mind. Chessboxing began in 1992 by a Dutch performance artist, Iepe Rubingh. Participants in chess boxing go through alternating rounds of chess, then boxing, then chess again against a single competitor. The competitors have a total of nine minutes of chess, interrupted every three minutes with three minutes of boxing. Competitors win by either winning the chess match, winning the boxing match, or decisions made by the judge.
The Cooper’s Hill Cheese Rolling and Wake, happening every year in Cooper’s Hill near Gloucester, England, has become quite well known since its creation in 1826. The traditional sport happens each year on the Spring Bank Holiday, in May. In Cheese Rolling, competitors must race down from the top of Cooper’s Hill, chasing their rolling nine-pound round of Double Gloucester Cheese. The first contestant that crosses the finish line at the bottom of the hill wins the cheeses. The annual Gloucester event has become so popular that it has inspired similar events across the world. One example is the cheese rolling race and obstacle course in Chester, England, which promotes the cheese made in the region.
This Finnish sport has its origins in a 19th-century story, though the exact beginning is not quite known. Most say it began with Herkko Rosvo-Ronkainen, AKA ‘Ronkainen the Robber’. He was apparently frequently seen stealing women from villages and carrying them back to his home in the woods. Others say it began because Rosvo-Ronkainen trained his band of robbers by running through the woods with heavy sacks on their backs, which later evolved into the sport of wife carrying. Still, others claim it was common practice for young men to steal men’s wives to marry them and so would carry the women on their backs away from the soon-to-be ex-husband. Wife Carrying today is an actual competitive sport in Finland in which male competitors race through an 831-foot long track with their (or a neighbor’s) wife on their back. The track goes through obstacle courses and a water obstacle, two teams at a time. The couple who crosses the finish line first wins the title of World Champion.
7. Underwater Hockey
Underwater Hockey, also called octopush, is like what happens if an ice hockey rink were to just melt. Two teams compete in a swimming pool to push a hockey puck across to the opposing team’s goal. The sport is played completely underwater, using flippers to be propelled forward. Players aren’t allowed snorkel gear, meaning they have to rely on simply holding their breath. The team consists of six players at a time, with up to four sitting outside the pool on reserve.
8. Husband Calling
In a day and age where cell phones are everywhere, the art of a good old fashioned shout can be lost. But if you enjoy shouting to your husband to get his attention, then check out Husband Calling. Take yourself out to the midwest of the United States to the Iowa State Fair. The contest involves women competing to see who can shout for their husband or scold him the loudest. Wives compete for the best style, tone, and depth of voice during the famous “husband call” and are judged on the first and last impressions of the call. The contest has become so popular that there is even a kids’ version, of “Mom Calling” at the fair as well.