We’re done with the NFL. You can forget about the College Football Playoff. Put down your basketballs and baseball bats, and let’s turn our attention to something that really matters: competitive toe wrestling.
Around the world, humans will do just about anything for a little competition. From the thrills of an extreme outdoor activity to tossing ping pong balls into cups full of beer, we’re all suckers for a good sport that’ll make us laugh, cry, and even scratch our heads wondering who invented this ridiculous thing. Here is a list of 12 weird and unusual sports from around the world that you need to try at least once.
12. The Redneck Games
From 1996 to 2012, the annual Redneck Games were held in East Dublin, Georgia, and they received national coverage from Good Morning America, MTV, ABC, CBS, and Fox just to name a few. With star-studded events like the Mud Pit Belly Flop, Toilet Seat Throwing, The Cigarette Flip, Dumpster Diving, and everybody’s favorite, the Armpit Serenade, the games are built for everyone needing a good, old-fashioned laugh. After attendance declined, the official games were discontinued in 2013, but I vote we bring this incredibly American competition back for good.
11. Sepak Takraw
Also known as “kick volleyball,” Sepak takraw is not for the faint of heart, or anyone like me who can’t get their leg above their chest. The sport is native to Southeast Asia, and its wildly entertaining action is hard to miss. While it’s a regular sport at the Asian Games and dominated by Thailand, the International Sepak Takraw Federation governs action all over the world. The ball, originally made of a fiber called rattan, is kicked back and forth and gets even crazier the longer the ball is in the air. You might not be able to pull it off, but could you imagine your next family gathering with this going on?
10. Underwater Hockey
Known as “Octopush,” underwater hockey is exactly what it sounds like. Invented to keep ice hockey teams busy in the offseason, two teams try to maneuver a puck along the bottom of swimming pool and score in the opposite team’s goal. Not only is the random sport now played around the world, but the CMAS is the sport’s international governing body and is officially recognized by the Olympics and the World Games, among others.
9. Extreme Ironing
Ironing your shirts never seemed so ridiculous. Grab your ironing boards, a few climbing ropes, and get started with this sport first invented in England in 1980 by extreme ironing pioneer Tony Hiam. In concentrations such as Urban, Water, Forest, Lauda, and Freestyle, the first Extreme Ironing World Championships were held in 2002, and it’s become a global phenomenon ever since. If you want to break a world record, the De Waterman Diving Club even owns the world record for 173 people ironing underwater for 10 minutes back in 2011.
8. Shin Kicking
This is becoming a pattern, but another of the world’s weirdest sports originated in Great Britain, and it’s known as shin-kicking. The object, aside from causing everyone unfamiliar with it to throw their hands into the air and yell about why they’re even doing this, is to force your opponent to the ground simply by hacking their shins. The Cotswold Olimpick Games are home to the Shin-Kicking World Championships, but don’t think just anyone could win this fight. Two minutes watching the highlights, and you’ll be icing your own shins in no time.
Mix volleyball, soccer, gymnastics, and trampolines together, and you get the wildly wacky sport of Bossaball. On an inflatable complete with a net that moves based on a player’s experience, the sport was developed in Spain and has become a phenomenon. The sport even appeared at the 2016 Olympic Games where Holland won the exhibition tournament’s gold medal and thrust the sport into the national spotlight. Don’t be surprised to see this one resurface as it rises in popularity!
If you haven’t seen the Harry Potter saga, then you probably either don’t own a television or just haven’t given the worldwide phenomenon the time it deserves. While bringing us into the wizarding world, author J.K. Rowling invented a sport that has become a global hit. Quidditch is played by two teams of players “riding” brooms and trying to defeat the other team. The goal is to score the “Quaffle,” which is worth 10 points, while capturing the elusive “Golden Snitch” gets that team 150 points and ends the game. The International Quidditch Association oversees the sport, while the U.S. Quidditch Cup pits more than 80 teams from collegiate and community divisions against each other for the title of National Champions.
5. Worm Charming
Worm charming, or worm grunting, is the action of vibrating the ground in order to coerce worms to the surface and capture them. It started out of necessity to collect bait for fishing, but as you’d expect, now it’s a sport with a world championship and everything. People use pitchforks, noise makers, and even brass tubas to work the wriggling critters up from the dirt, and places like Sopchoppy, Florida hold the annual “Worm Gruntin’ Festival.”
4. Chess Boxing
Every chess boxing match follows as such: six rounds of chess and five rounds of boxing. Yes, like “let’s start playing chess, then put on gloves and hit each other” chess boxing. The match is won either via knockout in the ring, by checkmate on the board, or by overall points on the boxing scorecard. The World Chess Boxing Association holds events all over the world and recognizes 13 world champions across both men’s and women’s divisions. This one might seem strange, but it could also be the most impressive sport on the planet, too.
3. Toe Wrestling
Similar to arm wrestling, toe wrestling involves two people touching each other’s bare foot and trying to “pin” them in a side-to-side showdown. Invented in (you guessed it) England, toe wrestling has world championships, but no one is more dominant than the greatest of all-time, Alan ‘Nasty’ Nash, who is a 14-time world champion. Podiatrists everywhere are sure to have the “upper-hand” in this one…
2. Wife Carrying
Grab your significant other, throw them over your shoulders, and hit a 250-meter obstacle course for another rousing edition of competitive wife-carrying! Invented in Finland, the sport has named a world champion every year since 1997, but no man may be more accomplished than Finnish athlete Taisto Miettinen, who owns Wife Carrying World Championship titles from 2009-2013, then again in 2017 with Kristiina Haapanen, who isn’t even his wife, along for every ride across every finish line.
1. Cheese Rolling
The annual Gloucestershire Cheese Rolling event is the most fascinating, incredible, electric, breath-taking, heart-pounding, mystifyingly weird sport on the planet. Every year from the top of Cooper’s Hill on Spring Bank Holiday, a round of Double Gloucester cheese is sent rolling down the hill, when competitors start chase it along the steep English hillside. The cheese is given a head start and can apparently reach speeds of 70 miles per hour, so catching it isn’t the goal: just making it down Cooper’s Hill in one piece is. The first person down wins the cheese, and probably has a nasty bruise along the way. I could watch these falls over and over, but trying this insane sport would be LOADS of fun.