When someone mentions sports, do you think of men or women pushing themselves to the limit of their ability in order to win a fair, rule-defined game? Do you remember the ideals of fair play and that zest of seeing your favorite athlete hit the field?
Does your stomach tighten from that, Who’s going to win? anticipation? Or, do you think of weird sports like chess boxing or finger wrestling?
There are more weird sports in the world than anyone can count, and they seem to get stranger the more you look. There’s no way to tell what was going through the head of whoever invented extreme ironing, but people apparently liked it enough to keep it alive. And while we can’t insist on the philosophical value of shin kicking, the competitors seem to have plenty of fun while doing it, so who are we to judge?
At the end of the day, what makes something a sport? Is it the constant pursuit for perfection of mind and body? Or is it the simple desire to compete and win? You be the judge.
These are 28 weirdest sports from around the world.
Wife Carrying (Finland)
We don’t recommend ever calling your wife a burden, but if you plan on taking part in wife carrying, that’s what she’s going to be for a while. As far as weird sports go, this one is actually pretty well defined. The course has to be exactly 253.5 meters long, with one dry and two water obstacles. Your wife must weigh 49 kilograms or more, and if you drop her, you will suffer a 15-second penalty.
The prize is just as bonkers. If you win, you get your wife’s weight in beer. The world championship takes place in July.
If there is a way to describe Bossaball, it’d be “volleyball on crack.” There are two teams of four on an inflatable course with trampolines. One player—the so-called attacker, uses the trampoline for more powerful, unpredictable airborne shots. The rest is pretty much standard volleyball, except that one team can touch the ball up to five times before having to get it over the net.
Contrasting with how strange Bossaball can look, it is actually one of the more tactical weird sports and one you can probably set up in your backyard. Just get yourself a couple trampolines, a volleyball net and you are good to go!
Extreme Ironing (United Kingdom)
Whoever thinks ironing is boring should look into this, extreme version. The idea is simple. Competitors are to take an ironing board anywhere they can think of, for as long as it’s unusual. Cliffs, hills, mountains, caves, boats, the friggin’ Times Square, are just some of the many possible locations.
What do they do then, you ask? Why, they start ironing, of course. The idea is to, and we quote, “combine the thrills of an extreme outdoor activity with the satisfaction of a well-pressed shirt.” Judging by the massive media coverage, it was successful!
Chess Boxing (France)
Although this one originates from a French comic book, today it is a very real test of endurance. You and your opponent essentially alternate between chess and boxing. Whoever knocks the other one out or scores a checkmate, wins.
If the chess game ends in a tie, the winner is the combatant with more points in boxing. If you’re tied in the boxing match as well, then victory goes to the player with the black chess pieces. Chess boxing is more than a little challenging. Apparently, devising complex strategies with a concussion is no walk in the park.
Outhouse Racing (Michigan. USA)
Straight out of Bizzaro world, outhouse racing has teams of three competing in bringing their restrooms (on skis, no less!) over the finish line. Each team has a rider and a pair of pushers. The outhouse has to have both a toilet seat and a working paper dispenser.
Why? We have no idea, but it sure is a hilarious sight! Outhouse racing takes place on the last Saturday of February, so there’s plenty of time to get ready if you’re thinking of taking part.
Pillow Fighting (Canada)
Few weird sports are gender-exclusive, but pillow fighting is one of them. This female-only display of violence and pizzaz can get much more brutal than you might expect. Contestants have reported black eyes, missing teeth, split lips, and worse. Soft or not, pillows can lay down some serious hurt when you swing them with enough force.
Unfortunately, pillow fighting didn’t seem to withstand the test of time. The Pillow Fight League has ceased operation in 2011. Whether it will return at some point, we have yet to see.
Dog Surfing (California, USA)
Have you ever thought about bringing your dog with you when you go surfing? Bad idea, you say? Well, the folks who first started doing it in San Diego happen to disagree. As it turned out, onlookers were so impressed that they started doing the same.
Today, dog surfing is rarely an organized activity, but more of an occasional exhibition. Competitions do take place in California from time to time, but they aren’t that common. Still, seeing someone surf with their dog is always a memorable sight.
Unicycle Polo (Oregon, USA)
Weird sports can sometimes get dangerous, but unicycle polo seems almost suicidal on paper. It actually encourages you to do pretty much everything that you can to reduce your coordination before taking the field. Notably, competitors are expected to have at least one alcoholic beverage prior to a match. Yes, you read that right.
Riding a unicycle is anything but easy. Doing it after a shot is pushing things. And if you’re trying to play polo alongside all that, you get a ticket to the emergency room.
Giant Pumpkin Kayaking Regatta (Oregon, USA)
Less of a sport and more of an elaborate Halloween celebration, the West Coast Giant Pumpkin Regatta is something that you need to experience. Imagine an event where a bunch of people race hollowed-out, 600–800-pound pumpkins around Tualatin Lake, while wearing elaborate costumes. Sounds strange? It most definitely is.
Sadly, the pumpkins don’t make particularly great boats. They tend to turn and fall apart. Luckily, rescue boats are always on standby. As you’ve probably concluded by now, the event takes place around (or on, depending on circumstance) Halloween.
Quidditch (United Kingdom)
Whether or not you’re a Harry Potter fan, chances are that you’ve heard of Quidditch. Well, now there’s a real-life version, because why not? Obviously, the brooms won’t fly, but that won’t discourage contenders from holding them between their legs as they try to score by throwing balls through hoops.
As you might expect, Quidditch started in the United Kingdom but has quickly spread around the world. The sport is going strong today, and the US branch maintains a consistent online presence.
Cheese Rolling (United Kingdom)
Among the many weird sports that they invented in the UK, cheese rolling may not be the absolute strangest, but it stands among the most absurd to see. They originally held these contests near Gloucester, where the organizers would let a roll of Double Gloucester cheese down the side of a hill. Contestants would then run and chase after the roll. Whoever crossed the finish line first was free to take the roll of cheese home.
Cheese rolling traditionally happens in May, though unofficial events are quite frequent. People sure love running after that cheese.
We sure hope that you’re prepared for this. Hobbyhorsing is essentially running around with a toy horse head on a stick while pretending that it’s real. No, this is not a Monty Python skit, but something that people actually do. It’s not uncommon for hobbyhorsing enthusiasts to give their “mounts” names, groom them, and generally treat them as if they were alive.
Of course, there’s nothing wrong with a little bit of pretending, but we all have to admit that seeing someone “gallop” can look downright silly. Considering how prone Finns are to making obscure memes, perhaps we are all missing out on some context here. But we digress. In a world where weird sports like unicycle polo exist, a little bit of harmless fun is always welcome.
Summer Redneck Games (Georgia, USA)
Calling someone a redneck is usually not a great call. You never know whether they detest the term, accept it, or perhaps even choose to glorify it. Well, whoever came up with the Summer Redneck Games clearly wears their heart on their sleeve. It was a grand celebration of the parts of US culture that many would consider less than savory.
Here people would compete in weird sports such as cigarette flipping, bobbing for pigs’ feet, toilet seat throwing, and more. Taking place in East Dublin, it was pure, unbridled passion. Unfortunately, interest slowly fizzled out. The Summer Redneck Games were discontinued in 2013 due to insufficient attendance.
Kaiju Big Battel (Japan)
Few things are as over-the-top as the kaiju movies of Japan. Giant monsters raging around big cities, destroying everything in sight? If the idea sounds intriguing to you, then you may want to check out Kaiju Big Battel. And, yes, “Battel” is a misspelling of the word “battle” that the organizers chose to embrace rather than correct.
So, what is it about? Why, people in costumes, roleplaying giant monsters in an affectionate parody of both movies and wrestling, of course! The performances are staged, so we can’t really call it a contest, but if wrestling gets a pass, then so does this. It’s crazy, sincere, and a whole lot of fun to witness.
Shin Kicking (United Kingdom)
They say that there is brilliance in simplicity, and shin kicking rolls with that statement. So, how does one compete? Well, you and your opponent grab each other by the collar, before starting to kick each others’ shins with the inside of your feet.
Unlike boxing and other fighting sports, shin kicking doesn’t deal in useless clutter such as points. You can’t lose without getting knocked down, giving up, or suffering a serious injury, as determined by the referee. You give up by yelling “sufficient,” loudly and clearly. Shin kicking can obviously take place whenever, wherever, assuming that you find someone willing to give it a shot.
Why do people do things, again? At this point, it’s a mystery.
Lawn Mower Racing (United Kingdom)
If Alvin Straight could drive 240 miles on his lawn mower, then it shouldn’t surprise you that people have found a way to race those things. Outfitting them for high speeds and keeping them in top shape is notably cheaper than doing the same with a car, after all. In fact, lawn mower racing is one of those weird sports that make a whole lot of sense. Just think of it as go-kart racing and you will get the right idea.
Lawn mower racing has come far since its humble roots in the UK. And given how easy and accessible it is to join the fun, it only keeps growing in popularity.
Armored Combat League (South Jersey, USA)
Ever wanted to experience being a knight? Does the idea of parrying an axe flying toward your face sound appealing to you? If it does, then Armored Combat League might just be your thing. Who said that medieval-style combat should stay in the middle ages?
These fights can get extremely violent. Head trauma, concussions, broken bones, and even actual cuts, aren’t rare. Armored combat is only for the hardcore, among other reasons due to a high entry cost. Getting fitted armor and gear will cost you a fair bit.
On the upside, the actual fights tend to be spectacular, with five-on-five matches standing out among the rest. It’s loud, fast, and vicious—exactly the way it should be.
Cardboard Tube Fighting League (Washington. USA)
If you find Armored Combat League too serious and vicious, then we’ve got the perfect alternative. Cardboard Tube Fighting League is for those who love the idea of knightly combat but don’t want to suffer the blows to their heads (and wallets) that tend to accompany it. It’s one of those weird sports whose creators know exactly what they want, and it involves a wide grin.
Contrary to what you might expect, CTFL matches actually do have their share of rules. Shields are illegal, and you fight until you break your tube or your opponent breaks it for you. You can neither stab nor lunge, and blows to the face are generally frowned upon. It’s all tailored for a light yet exciting experience.
Rock Paper Scissors/Janken (USA)
Rock paper scissors, or janken as they call it in China, is one of those casual games that everyone knows about. Once you see people take it 100% seriously, though, you’ll likely burst out laughing. As it turns out, rock paper scissors is serious business. Grand competitions do exist, and winners can go home with sizable cash prizes.
Or at least that’s the way things used to be. The USA Rock Paper Scissors League has been defunct since 2014. Who’d have thought that a game that relies almost purely on chance had little potential as a competitive juggernaut?
Once upon a time, jousting didn’t rank among weird sports—it was a way for nobles to face off against each other and earn (or lose) accolades. It was also extremely dangerous and accident-heavy, and modern jousting is little different in that regard. It is a contest of strength, stability, and sheer force of will. In other words, it is a competitive sport through and through.
There are many competitive jousting federations, situated all around the world. Some are a bit lax with their rules, but the best make you compete with iron and wood lances. You can easily get injured if you’re not careful, but if you want authenticity, it’s a risk you have to be willing to take.
Toe Wrestling (United Kingdom)
Whenever the UK blesses the world with another one of their fresh weird sports, strangeness enthusiasts tend to hold their breath. So, what have the Brits cooked up for us this time? Why, it’s wrestling, but with your toes. Think of it as thumb wrestling, but about twice as awkward, and about thrice as unpleasant to watch.
And how did this abomination come into being, you ask? Expectedly, some drunk people thought of it in a pub, this time in the British village of Wetton. You see, they were displeased by the fact that Britain doesn’t seem to be the best at any one sport in particular, so they decided to invent their own. The rest is history.
Bo-taoshi (or pole toppling) is a Japanese pastime that looks like something straight out of World War Z. Two teams of 150 people each (!) are trying to bring down the opposing team’s pole. One-half of a team attacks, while the other defends.
It may look like pure chaos, but Bo-taoshi is actually rather tactical. There are a number of different roles that you can assume within your team, with the most notable one being that of the “ninja.” As you might expect, the ninja’s task is to balance on top of the pole and make it more difficult for the opposing team to bring it down.
Calcio Storico (Italy)
Calcio Storico means “historical football,” but that name doesn’t do a good job of illustrating what this ode to brutality is like. Imagine football but without protective gear, on sand instead of grass, and with fighting not only allowed but encouraged. Among all the weird sports on this list, Calcio Storico is most similar to a grand melee. With 27 people on each team, it’ll likely be the biggest fight you’ll ever see.
The championship takes place in June, while the finals happen on June 24th, the day of St. John the Baptist.
Conceived in Hokkaido, Japan, Yukigassen has quickly grown in popularity, and they now hold events in Alaska, Australia, Canada, Finland, Norway, Russia, and Sweden. The name, meaning, “snow battle,” tells you everything that you need to know.
It is essentially a large snowball fight between two teams of seven, each. When and if a snowball hits you, you’re out. The team with the last person standing wins.
Yukigassen typically takes place in winter, but counties under constant snow may hold contests at pretty much any time of the year.
Competitive Sleeping (Spain/California, USA)
For the most part, sports are good for you. Sleeping is undeniably good for you. Put the two together, and what do you get? We’re not too sure, but they say that it’s “competitive,” and who are we to disagree?
Spain was actually the first country to hold a contest in sleeping, but the US was quick to embrace the concept. The idea was simple enough: if you can pull off 20 uninterrupted minutes of sleep within a shopping mall, you’re a master sleeper. Today, we have the Competitive Napping League, which is apparently still a thing, though their online presence isn’t great. Perhaps they’re busy training for the next event.
Face Slapping (Russia)
If we tell you that face slapping is an actual sport in Russia, would you really be surprised? It is, of course, an individual discipline. Two men take turns slapping one another. When one competitor either gives up or loses consciousness, the other one wins.
It’s not one of the more well-known weird sports, but word of mouth travels fast. Vasily Pelmen, who won the Siberian Male Slapping Championship back in 2019, has become a household name in Russia. We wouldn’t recommend taking part without taking several hits of vodka beforehand, or even after.
This is a “Sport” that needs to be seen to be truly appreciate.
Face slapping is rarely a solo event, but they often hold it as part of some other, major strongman manifestation.
Punkin Chunkin (Delaware, USA)
Punkin Chunkin (a corruption of pumpkin chucking) is an… ahem, discipline in which competitors hurl pumpkins via mechanical means.
They use catapults, cannons, trebuchets, and pretty much anything else you can think of. The goal? Match or exceed the others’ distance. The one who launches their pumpkin the farthest, wins.
Being one of several pumpkin-based weird sports, this one also takes place around Halloween. More precisely, they chuck pumpkins in the first week after the holiday.