Fans Can’t Get Enough Of These Strange Sports
Forget those old, played out games that have been entrenched in athletic competition for so long. Baseball may be America’s pastime, but that is exactly why it has become so played out. The rules, the structure, the expectations – they’re all the same.
These strange sports – birthed from time-honored tradition, invented out of boredom and everything in between – are bizarre, wacky and wild in ways that many mainstream sports simply cannot compare. Enter a sports world that is so far out there it’s impossible to categorize. One thing is for sure, these athletes are far from the norm. Fans of extreme sports, look no further than these 30 strange sports for thrills and fierce competition. Everything from lumberjacking to extreme ironing – the weirdest sports in the world are nothing like what you’d expect.
1. Lumberjack World Championships
Rumor has it that merely attending the Lumberjack World Championships at the Lumberjack Bowl in Wisconsin (shocker) will put hair on your chest. This competition is so mystically masculine that every competitor – male or female – automatically earns a man card for life. This is definitely the burliest event in the world of strange sports.
The events are awesome: logrolling, wood chopping, sawing, climbing and more. The event names are even better: birling, hot saw, double buck, boom run, Jack and Jill.
It may not be in the rule book, but wearing anything other than flannel certainly leads to a deduction of some sort.
There are a lot of reasons to believe that our entire existence is nothing more than a simulation. Look no further than this 100 percent authentic, mind-numbingly real, more unique than one-of-a-kind sport: hobbyhorsing.
Words like “weird” and “bizarre” do not come close to properly depicting this spectacle. It involves people riding toy horses in a gymnasium with zero intention of irony. What apparently began in Finland quickly gained a following and has reportedly exploded in popularity.
3. Summer Redneck Games
Some people – whether from the South, Midwest or parts unknown – may find the term “redneck” to be offensive. Others embrace the moniker. Still others celebrate it, to the point that they create an entire competition in its spirit.
And so, the Summer Redneck Games were born.
This wild celebration of all things redneck has become a summertime staple in East Dublin, Georgia. For five bucks, fans gain entry into a competition unlike any other. Classic events include the toilet seat horseshoe toss, watermelon seed spitting, mud pit belly flop.
Hillbillies, here’s your heaven.
If mom and pops couldn’t wait to get rid of you and drop you off at summer camp for a while, you know this Gaga’s got nothing to do with the Lady. That, or you went to the wrong camp.
Gaga’s origins are unclear and its name has many variants, but the court is easily recognizable.
Use a bunch of wooden benches for a makeshift court or go all out with the real thing to make a roughly waist to chest-high octagonal wall.
Toss in a soccer ball for a larger “arena” or tennis ball for a smaller one. Players slap the ball around, and those hit in the waist (sometimes knee) or below are out. Last person standing wins.
5. Kaiju Big Battel
The world can thank the unrivaled genius of Rand and David Borden for introducing us to the greatest sport we never knew we needed: Kaiju Big Battel. Everything about this pseudo-wrestling epic battle is fantastic.
“Kaiju,” which literally translates to “strange beast,” is a film genre featuring monsters. The characters usually wreck cities and fight other big monsters (think Godzilla). Even the sport’s choice to stick with “battel” after an accidental misspelling of “battle” is telling. The name reflects the carefree, light-hearted nature of this hilariously costumed exhibition.
6. West Coast Giant Pumpkin Regatta
The first thing Tualatin, Oregon has going for its uniquely weird sport is the title: West Coast Giant Pumpkin Regatta. Add the word “regatta” to the name of any boat or yacht race; the regal nomenclature gives the event instant cred.
Located just outside of Portland, this town lives up to the “Keep It Weird” slogan. Every October, participants dress up in ridiculous Halloween costumes and race across Tualatin Lake inside huge pumpkins.
Eat your heart out, New England. This is how the Pacific Northwest does Halloween.
There’s no denying that J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series has taken over the world. The literary hit became a blockbuster film series and has inspired countless games, collectibles and merchandise. The brand has earned billions since its inception in 1997. Perhaps craziest of all, people are actually playing HP’s imaginary strange sport of Quidditch.
Harry Potter fans have taken their obsession to new heights, thanks to certain college students who’ve put excessive effort into not studying. What began with Middlebury College students’ silly idea to run around on brooms playing the game at their Vermont school quickly evolved. Now the strange sport is regulated by the International Quidditch Association (yep, that’s real). There’s even an International Quidditch World Cup.
8. Chess Boxing
Unlike Quidditch, chess boxing is not another weird sport spawned from HP’s fictional wizarding world. This game is a serious test of will; it takes both brains and brawn to earn champ status.
Chess boxing began in Berlin in 2003 and has since spread around the world.
A match consists of 11 rounds – six rounds of chess and five of boxing. Each round lasts three minutes. A winner is only declared by a checkmate in chess, T/KO in boxing or disqualification by the ref for idleness.
9. Shin Kicking
Welp, the rules of this one don’t exactly require a lot of explanation.
Let’s start with the name of this bizarre contest: shin kicking. Now let’s break it down. The first word implies that shins are involved, so logic tells us what’s being kicked.
Probably the silliest sounding name in combat sports today, the rules sound equally ridiculous. The combatants grab each other by the collar and strike away with the inside of their foot. A competitor loses by shouting “sufficient” to say they’ve had enough.
10. Lawn Mower Racing
Do not let the comical name lawn mower racing fool you. As funny as the concept is, the sport itself is equally intense.
The major difference between lawn mower racing and go-karting is the vehicle itself. Unlike a go-kart, a lawn mower must maintain its engine and chassis (frame).
This mini-sized style of racing originated in the UK. After a group of friends became fed up with the unavoidable cash vacuum and huge startup costs of auto-racing, they came up with this new sport. Whether the event takes place on a flat track or off-road, lawn mower racing is a hit.
Not convinced? It’s grown so much that Lawnmower Racing Mania 2007 is a real Xbox game. That’s legit.
11. Armored Combat League
For whatever reason, humans always seem to have a nostalgic predisposition. *Sigh* Then again, things sure were pretty sweet back in the day. Like, remember how fun hand to hand combat used to be in medieval times?
No? Well, thanks to the Armored Combat League, now you can!
Renaissance fairs got nothing on the ACL. There are a variety of forms of competition. One even involves five-on-five (regional teams) groups of armored knights duking it out. We’re talking real deal knight armor, too.
Countries around the world have gotten in on the madness. Everyone knows being The Hound in Game of Thrones is way more baller than simply watching him.
“Red Rover, Red Rover, bring Kabaddi over!” Wait, Kabaddi’s not a person? Well, that would certainly explain why everyone keeps trying to tackle the person who’s “it” in this strange sport.
It’s not quite a typical game of tag either. This weird sport brings a fresh take on popular American playground games.
Kabaddi is a popular Asian game, especially throughout India.
Games are made up of two teams of seven players each. One player on offense (the raider) must run to the opposing team’s side and tag out as many players as possible without being tackled.
13. Sepak Takraw
The action shot of what sepak takraw looks like is by no means exceptional compared to any other play in this game. If this makes you question how much time you spend on the couch every day, don’t worry, so did we.
Sepak takraw is popular in Southeast Asia. The courts are roughly twice the size of a badminton court. Teams of three must kick or hit the ball over a net without touching it with their hand/arm. The net is roughly 1.52-1.55m high (4’10”-5’1″).
Points are awarded for faults, including the opponent knocking the ball out of bounds, contacting the hand/arm, and scoring the ball in bounds. A game goes to 21 points. That’s a lot of flips.
Bossaball kind of looks like sepak takraw, but on a giant inflatable volleyball court with trampolines. As one might expect, along with a slightly more complicated court comes somewhat more complex rules.
Imagine sepak takraw combined with volleyball, and that’s a great start. Two strange sports in one!
Bossaball consists of two teams of four, playing to 21. A team can touch the ball five times max to get it on the other side, but the regulations on volleyball vs soccer touches and points scored by touch/location make this as much of a strategy game as a sport.
15. Rock Paper Scissors (Janken)
If you somehow never played rock-paper-scissors growing up, please climb out from the rock you’ve been living under.
This childhood game, known as “janken” in Chinese, is exactly what many played during recess. Only it’s super intense.
Strap in for this one: The United States of America Rock Paper Scissors League is a real thing. Not only that, its national champion actually wins a load of cash.
Clearly, the Chinese variant is no less intense – everyone in the video above is going straight up bananas.
16. Cheese Rolling
The Cooper’s Hill Cheese-Rolling and Wake in England is flat out ridiculous. Even in the realm of strange sports, this is an absurd contest. People come from all over the world to compete, chasing a wheel of cheese and trying to catch it.
Don’t be fooled by the silly concept though – the competition is intense.
A nine-pound wheel of Double Gloucester is rolled with a one second head start before the competitors run after it. The cheese turns into an edible wheel of death, reaching speeds up to 70 mph. First racer to cross the finish line wins the cheese.
Don’t ask questions. Just to roll with it.
17. Man Versus Horse Marathon
The Man Versus Horse Marathon in Wales is an awesomely weird contest. It was created out of a classic argument over human limitation and potential. The race’s inventor, Gordon Greene, overheard two men arguing that a human could keep pace with a horse when traversing the country.
Green created a 35K race (roughly 22 miles) to test the theory. Runners, cyclists, and horses all compete and the race continues to grow in popularity. The purse for winning the near-marathon length race continues to grow, too.
Like many strange sports, this Dutch invention has a crazy sounding name. Fierljeppen essentially translates to “far leaping.”
Leaping far is the one and only thing this sport is about. It’s similar to pole vault, but the objective is distance rather than height.
The location really makes this sport wild. While pole vaulters aim to clear a bar and land on safety mats, fierljeppen competitors leap across a body of water onto a bed of sand.
It may look silly and fun, but these athletes cover serious distance. A soft landing seems uncertain when trying to break the world record of 70’7″.
19. Caber Toss
Amongst the many track and field events, the javelin throw is one of the most deceptively complicated events to the untrained eye. Imagine the precision and form required to properly throw a jav. Now, imagine trying to heave a 19’6″ wooden pole weighing 175 pounds!
That’s the caber toss.
The caber toss looks like something straight out of The Iliad. The athletes are like Greek demigods, chucking impossible-to-lift objects with superhuman strength.
Rather than going for distance, the goal of this wonky test of strength is to flip the pole to land as flat on the top end as possible.
Out of all the strange sports in the world, this is the most likely to bring history buffs and sports fans together. Game of Thrones enthusiasts are also certain to enjoy this marvel. Let’s be real, does anyone honestly believe there’s such a thing as “too much” GoT?
While the Armored Combat League merely mimics medieval combat, modern jousting is still as awesomely barbaric as it was in the Renaissance era. Admittedly, it’s not quite at the same level as the Middle Ages version – but events go all out.
The St. Ives Medieval Faire’s World Jousting Championship uses real wood and steel lances and adheres to 15th Century rules.
21. Toe Wrestling
The United Kingdom is home to many strange sports. Yet this one is a sport so weird, it feels downright uncomfortable just to watch. Welcome to toe wrestling. The only thing funnier than the competition itself is its origin.
Flashback to 1976 Britain in the village of Wetton. A group at Ye Olde Royal Oak Inn was discussing how British athletes never manage to be the best in the world at any one sport… so they decided to host a contest of their own. And that’s how this relative of thumb wrestling was born.
The Japanese sport of bo-taoshi, or “pole toppling,” is a team sport on a mass scale. Each team consists of a whopping 150 people! The goal of the game is to topple the opposing team’s pole.
Each team is split in half, with 75 players on offense and 75 on defense.
Though it looks like a zombie attack with bodies climbing over one another in mass chaos, there are actually a number of strategic positions with specific roles in the sport. Arguably the most important position is the “ninja” – this player mans the top of the pole. The ninja leans in the opposite direction as the pole is falling to counterbalance the weight.
23. Pillow Fight League
Thankfully, there is no need to fear waking up from this dream. The Pillow Fight League is a bona fide sport. For that, we can thank the Canadian entrepreneurs who managed to turn this slumber party pastime into a competitive game.
Fights apparently get pretty intense and have resulted in lost teeth and even concussions. This makes a lot more sense upon examining the rules, which allow punching and submission holds. This sport may be intense, but is this still not the most Canadian thing ever?
Cycleball, or “radball” as it’s referred to in German (probably because it’s so sick, bruh) looks very much like a game of soccer… but on bicycles. It’s a two-on-two competition with riders using fixed-gear bikes without a freewheel or brakes.
It’s hard to argue that, at a glance, the sport looks ridiculous as competitors whack a ball around with their bike. Don’t be fooled, though. This picture alone shows just how acrobatic and crafty players can get when trying to save or score a goal.
You might need to sit down for this one. There aren’t enough dog shows in the world to prep for this. Forget equestrians and their dressage, eventing and most of all, forget show jumping.
This is kaninhoppning, which is the Swedish sport of bunny hopping.
Kaninhoppning, which began in Sweden in the 1970s, is nearly identical to show jumping with horses. Except everything is all cute and bunny sized.
This sport is so legit that there’s a Swedish Federation of Rabbit Jumping. When the craze reached the United States, the Rabbit Hopping Organization of America was created.
26. Cardboard Tube Fighting League
The Cardboard Tube Fighting League is perhaps the greatest combat sport (roll with it) of all. It’s origins are exactly what one would expect.
Robert Easley of Seattle, Washington created the league. Easley explains that the idea came from memories of he and his friends having “sword fights” with cardboard tubes.
Suiting up and dueling in the CTFL is all about one thing – having fun. Just look at the three core values this goofy league lives by:
- People need more ways to play and take themselves less seriously.
- Events can be fun without alcohol.
- Cardboard sword fighting is fun.
Go out and preach that good word.
27. Extreme Ironing
If you don’t consider extreme ironing to be a legit extreme sport, think again. It has its own Wikipedia page. According to Wiki, there’s even an Extreme Ironing Bureau. We’re inclined to accept every word on its official website as fact.
This image of a dude leaping off a cliff with an ironing board qualifies as extreme in our book.
According to the EI site, “Extreme ironing is an adrenaline sport which combines the thrill of an extreme outdoor activity with the satisfaction of a well-pressed shirt.”
It’d be impossible to snap an action shot of this sport that wouldn’t pass for a perfectly timed photo.
28. Calcio Storico
The many risks that come along with playing American football are undeniable. Yet Italy scoffs at such fear of bodily harm. Look no further than calcio storica (historic football) for proof.
Take off the helmets and pads, replace the grass with sand, and introduce fighting to the field. Welcome to the strange sport of calcio.
This wild game consists of 27 players on each team, and they’re pretty much allowed to brawl. We’re talking full on tackling, kicking, punching. Players aren’t even allowed to sub a fresh guy in if someone gets hurt.
Italians should’ve just named this strange sport “war.” Even the start of the game is intense – it’s signaled by a cannon shot.
Buzkashi is most definitely a weird sport, but this trippy event blurs the lines of brutal competition in a big way.
This horse-riding competition is primarily played in Central Asia, Turkey, and all of the ‘stans (Afghanistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan).
Even when it comes to strange sports, buzkashi is ruthless. Replace a typical ball with a goat carcass (standard practice, amirite?). The competitors carry whips in their teeth to fend off other riders as they try to get the carcass to the opponents’ side and drop it in a goal.
SlamBall is one of those weird sports where the moment you see it, you know, “This is not going to last.” Be that as it may, this novel spinoff of basketball has its heart in the right place – all the exciting parts of basketball with more contact!
The idea of SlamBall was to take the high-flying fun of basketball and focus almost entirely on that aspect by adding a bunch of trampolines, so people are soaring through the air from start to finish. It looks like they’re hooked up to bungee cords.
Add in a bunch of athletes full-on colliding some 10 feet in the air and we have a lock for some world class safety violations.