1. Toe Wrestling. Yup - there’s arm wrestling, thumb wrestling... and now toe wrestling. As you might imagine, it’s a lot like thumb wrestling - competitors just use different digits. It apparently started when a group of men at a pub decided to find or invent a game that “the British could actually win,” and after a few beverages, they came up with just the thing. Ironically, the first-ever World Toe Wrestling Championships ended with a Canadian victor. Competitors have their own phalange-related nicknames: two of the most accomplished athletes are called the Itatoelion Stallion and the Toeminator. The face of the sport would probably be Alan “Nasty” Nash, a five-time champion who has appeared on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno to show off his technique. “I don't think the size of your toe has anything to do with it as I have short, stumpy toes,” he has said. Picture from Metro.
2. Cheese Rolling. You’ve likely heard of this one, but it’s too weird to leave out of the article. Every year at Cooper’s Hill in England’s Cotswolds, a large wheel of cheese is sent tumbling from the top of the hill (pictured)... and a bunch of Cheese Rollers come tumbling after. The first person to reach the bottom of the hill wins the cheese. This may not seem like an outstanding prize, but be assured that the race for the Double Gloucester round is a heated one: injuries have included concussions, broken bones and sprained ankles. Injuries are usually incurred by the Cheese Rollers themselves, but on at least one occasion the cheese (which usually weighs seven or eight pounds) took a wicked bounce at the bottom of the hill and careened into a spectator. Picture from Cheese Rolling.
3. Poohsticks. Children’s lit fans (or Disney fans) will be familiar with Poohsticks from The House at Pooh Corner, A.A. Milne’s 1928 book. Milne actually played the game with his son, although we’re not sure if the game was invented for the book and then played by Milne and his son Christopher Robin or vice versa. Fans started actually playing the game, which involves dropping sticks in a stream or river to see which one crosses the designated finish line first, in 1984. The Royal National Lifeboat Institution needed some money and the lock keeper thought a Poohsticks competition - donations accepted - might help their cash flow. His hunch was correct - since its inception, the World Poohsticks Competition has raised more than £30,000. Every winner receives a gold medal and a Winnie the Pooh teddy bear.
4. Extreme Ironing. There are a lot of us out there that probably dread the tedium of pressing wrinkles out of clothes, but there are others who look at it as the opportunity for an adrenaline rush - namely, Extreme Ironers. It started out as just a fun, quirky hobby, but for the past several years an actual competition sponsored by Rowenta has taken place. EIs send in a photo of themselves ironing in strange and extreme places and points are given for place and style (just standing there with an iron will get you minimal points; striking a graceful pose while ironing underwater will get you more). Bonus: the sport has inspired cellists to do the same thing. Photo from OneInchPunch.
5. Buzkashi sounds like something made up for Borat, but it’s a real sport in Afghanistan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan, among others. It’s kind of like polo, except the focus of the game revolves around a decapitated goat or calf instead of a ball. If you’re a Rambo fan, you might remember seeing the game depicted in Rambo III. Photo from AfghanNetwork.
6. Cell Phone Throwing. Fed up with your cell phone? Join the club. But now you can do something legal to vent your frustrations (as opposed to going Naomi Campbell on someone). Since 2001, the Mobile Phone Throwing World Championships have been held in Finland. Categories include the traditional toss, freestyle (points for creativity!), team, and junior. If you’re not near Finland and don’t care to travel there just to chuck a phone, never fear: the U.S. held its first event in Massachusetts in 2008. And if you love your cell phone but hate outdated technology, you can join in the Rotary Phone Throw at Lawrence University in Wisconsin.
7. International Regatta of Bathtubs. La Regate des Baignoires was created to boost tourism in Dinant, Belgium. As you can imagine, bathtubs don’t float very well, so it’s a pretty entertaining “race.” In fact, speed really doesn’t matter at all when it comes to winning this thing. It’s more about the creativity of your tub and whether your tub actually makes it across the finish line or not. Photo from P&O Ferries.
8. Chess Boxing. The old stereotype of chess being for skinny, geeky guys with no athletic ability to speak of is totally out the window with this extreme sport. The game started out as kind of a joke in a graphic novel, but people eventually picked up on it and thought it had merit in reality. The first world championship was held in 2003 and regulated by the World Chess Boxing Organization. I like to think that when you call a checkmate, you get to punch your opponent in the face… but it doesn’t work like that. Boxing rounds are alternated with chess-playing rounds; the winner can be determined by knockout, checkmate, or a decision made by the referee. Photo from Time magazine.
9. Unicycle Hockey. It would seem to me that unicycling and hockey each have enough opportunity for injury all on their own, but combine them and you’re almost guaranteed to get a cool scar at some point. There are a few extra fouls, such as “sibbing,” which is poking your hockey stick in an opponent’s spokes to trip him or her up, but for the most part, the unusual mode of transportation is the biggest difference from regular hockey. Oh, yeah, and the lack of ice. Really, ice + unicycle = asking for a shattered femur. Here’s a group playing unicycle hockey in Telluride:
10. Rock Paper Scissors League. Yes, there’s a Rock Paper Scissors League (to be known as RPSL from now on), and yes, it’s serious. The world competitions take place every year in Las Vegas with Bud Light sponsoring. There’s skill to the game, for sure, but it’s more mental than anything else. For example, statistics have shown that women tend to start off a game with scissors and men tend to start with rock. Know your opponent and you could be a $50,000 winner like Sean Sears, who beat more than 300 contestants at Mandalay Bay last year. If that’s not your cup of tea, there are plenty of other tournaments to participate in: there’s the National Xtreme RPS Competition, the UK RPS Championship and the World Series of RPS.