People find satisfaction in watching other people compete. It can be any competition or contest, from something as grand and mature as the Olympics with hundreds of well-built people throwing javelin spears or sprinting to the finish on a race track, to something as innocent as kids running in rice sacks for pants. However, there is a point beyond which the competitions start getting weird, with no particular reason why they exist in the first place or why there is an obsession and passion surrounding them.
While most competitions today challenge athletic or mental skills, a few of the competition demand the ability to look cool and, well, bizarre while doing it. The ideas for some of these contests may originate from ancient customs while others exist just because someone wanted them to. The reason why people love these competitions may be because we follow the crowd, the traditions, the customs; or, simply because it gives us tiny moments of joy. But whatever the reasons may be, do we really care? Well, that’s the motto of these competitions, isn’t it?!
In this article, we take you through 20 such competitions that are bizarre to say the least, and talk about the history or legend of each of these “sports” and why people love them like they do. You will learn about wrestlers turning shamans; screaming babies and demons; slimy worms in the ground losing their privacy; people being people and doing the most outrageous things; weird and insane sports, and much more.
20 Naki Sumo – Baby Crying Competition
If you are a parent of an infant, you know that the biggest concern is their high-pitched cries and fuss. You try your best to calm down them. But in a district in Tokyo, Japan, people make their infants cry; certainly not because they are bad parents. We are talking about the Naki Sumo Baby Crying Festival, a ritual celebrated in the Sensoji Temple in Tokyo every year.
At this festival, each child is accompanied by a Sumo wrestler who will make them bawl. A few of the Japanese people have been practicing this tradition for hundreds of years now. The word “Naki Sumo” originates from a Japanese proverb “Naku Ko Wa Sodastu,” which roughly translates to “Crying babies grow fat.”
People believe that the wails of babies will ward off evil spirits which otherwise would harm the community. They also believe that the crying babies will grow to be healthier than the rest.
During the sport, a Sumo wrestler gets on to the stage, but not for fighting. They hold the baby in their arms and will try to scare them into crying. The wrestlers often wear eerie masks and yell “Cry! Cry! Cry!”
The baby that cries the most and loudest is said to live longer and healthier life than the others. Getting professional wrestlers, asking them to scare the tiny tots into crying, and calling it a contest is rather unusual. And according to the parents and audience, the event is pretty fun. But we cannot for certain tell you if the babies, and the wrestlers for that matter, share the same feelings.
19 World Worm-Charming Championships
The title of the competition reminds us of a famous quote - Stop waiting for your prince charming, get up and find him, the poor soul may be stuck in a tree or something. In the present context, I would say your priceless worm is jammed into the clay, get him off the ground and he is persistent enough you need to woe him.
Yes, there is a competition called the World Worm-Charming Championships, which is hosted by Willaston Country Primary School in Willaston, a small village in England, every year on one of the Saturdays in June, in which participants from all over the world come to “charm” as many worms as they can.
People actually practice the skill of coaxing the worms to the rise to the surface of the Earth. The championship dates back to 1980 when the local schoolyard was sectioned off for some reason and the disgruntled students stomped the ground to get at the worms, and the worms did! The act became a competition, and started gaining popularity in the UK. If you visit the championship, you will find participants of all age groups holding a roping iron in their hands to stomp the ground to get the worm off the ground.
The participants call themselves “wormers.” Three people form a group - a charmer, a picker, and a counter - who are given a square-meter of the field to grunt as many worms as they can in under 15 minutes. Well, getting those slimy creatures out of the ground is a talent we can’t deny.
18 Eukonkanto - World Wife Carrying Championships
They say couples need to carry each other’s burdens; and, the Finnish took it seriously enough to adhere to it it as the sport called Eukonkanto - World Wife-Carrying Championships - every year. The origins of this competition can be traced to the 19th Century when, according to legend, a man named Herkko Rosvo-Ronkainen, believed to be a forest-dwelling thief, is accused of stealing women from their husbands in villages in the dead of the night, carrying them on their backs and marrying them.
But all of that has been forgotten and forgiven, and turned into a sport. The contest has a set of rules to be followed: the women to be carried can be anyone, but needs to be at least 18 years old and weigh a minimum of 108 pounds. If the weight of the woman is less than 108 pounds, then the officials will balance it by adding a rucksack with additional weights. Fair enough.
But the female participants won’t be piggybacking on their partners’ shoulders; rather, they are carried upside down with a helmet for their protection! The carrier wears a belt and runs along a track with obstacles such as water and logs. While the participants run at their own risk, the event is apparently enjoyed by the runners, their women, and the viewers.
17 World Championship Punkin Chunkin – Smashing Pumpkins Like There's No Tomorrow
Played in USA, Punkin Chunkin is a competition of chucking a pumpkin from a distance. Usually, it is held every year in Autumn, the time when pumpkins are harvested. The participants can use catapults, slingshots, trebuchets, centrifugal chuckers, and other machines to crash the pumpkin out of towering steel and aluminum barrels. The event registers a huge fan following.
Punkin Chunkin made the headway from a backyard challenge to an international challenge with nearly 100 teams. The competition is conducted both children and adults separately, and the winners are bestowed with a title and trophy. The event organizers say the competition acts as a stress-buster as people love throwing the pumpkin in the air and watching it getting squashed. Obviously, breaking stuff relieves stress and anger.
The event, however, is riddled with accidents. People tumble down the ladder, are left with injuries and even worse. In an isolated incident, a metal plate shot from the Pumpkin Reaper air cannon hit a TV producer’s face. In light of these unfortunate incidents, the competition was scrapped for few years. It was later resumed with a new insurance policy and safety rules. The winner of the competition can (proudly) say, “I smashed pumpkins in the air!”
16 Monkey Buffet Festival – Giving back to our great, great ancestors
Thousands of tourists gather to feed feral monkeys in the Lopburi Province – aptly known as the city of monkeys - north of Bangkok every year. The event is celebrated as Monkey Buffet Festival in which a large congress of the simians are thrown a feast with a variety of foods. Hundreds of pounds of food is served on this day to the monkeys.
The local chefs of Lopburi spend hours of time preparing vegetarian dishes, such as fruit salads, white rice and traditional Thai desserts made from egg yolk, and serve the guests of the day in a true buffet style. The first monkey feast was thrown in 1989 near the Khmer temple of Phra Prang Sam Yot, and since then it was added to the social calendar of Thailand.
The real challenge for the people is to feed the troublemakers, who often get aggressive and almost villainous. People wear safety gear while handling the primates, but the little munchkins even try to snatch the gear out of excitement. But the participants over there don’t lose patience, and wine and dine the monkeys. If you are ever visiting the place, you can take a detour and feed our long-lost cousins.
15 Cockroach Racing – Jeepers Creepers
If you live in a particularly unkempt house, chances are when you flick off the lights in the night, you may get invaded by a colony of cockroaches. Cockroaches can run up to 3 miles in an hour (if they don’t have wings, that is). They may give you the creeps, but there are people who would pay to watch them race! Imagine the 6-legged monstrosity, which is unable to walk when tipped on its back, sprinting in a race. But why, you ask? Because, why not!
The first cockroach race was held back on the 26th of January, 1982, in Australia, on Australia Day, entitled, “Australia Day Cockroach Races.” Later, the concept spread like wildfire across other parts of the world, including the United States. Every year, hundreds of gallons of cockroaches are spilled in the event in Australia for the race.
It is dubbed “the greatest gathering of thoroughbred cockroaches in the world.”
In order to participate in the competition, you need to pay an entry fee. The human winners of the race will be given titles and names, which isn’t much of a surprise as they deserve accolades. However, we do pity the insects that must be feeling socially awkward surrounded and controlled by giants. The next time you find cockroaches at your home, don’t freak out. Name them, and preserve them for the competition; or, for a time when the contest becomes an Olympic sport.
14 Rock Paper Scissors League – Gets Intense
How many times have you thought “That game’s for kids” when someone asked to play Rock Paper Scissors with you? Believe it or not, the game is a national competition in the US. In fact, there is a whole league built around it. The champion of the game wins US $50,000 in cold-hard cash.
Japan, too, conducts this event as Janken (rock-paper-scissor) Taikai (competition) with a Cosplay event in which people dress up as characters from their Pop Culture to cheer. Celebrities, too, participate in this air sport. It gets so intense that a few contestants even cry after they win. Of course, you need to put your heart and soul into whatever you do or aspire to do.
The Wacky Nation in the UK conducts its own Rock Paper Scissors Championship. The game is of speed, dexterity and strategy between players. Experts even study to devise a winning strategy, and say that the secret lies in the intersection of math and psychology. A referee monitors the game. One who participates should be familiar with the rules as these competitions are kind of strict.
It is believed that Japan took inspiration for the game from China - who supposedly invented the game 4,000 years ago - and evolved the hand game as Janken. Over the years, the game got popular all over the world.
13 Gurning Championships - The ugliest face wins
We can make things out of anything, or competitions and games on anything.
Gurning Championship is a rural English tradition where contestants frame their faces with a horse collar and gurn to look “ugly”, or unconventionally beautiful, based on your philosophical bend.
According to those who care about the game, people with no teeth are good at it as they get more room to stretch their jaw, and many champions surgically remove teeth to gurn better.
The origin of the event is unclear. Some claim it originated in 1267 at the Egremont Crab Fair. The contests are held in gentlemen, ladies and juniors categories. There is no restriction on how long you can stretch your face, as long as your face doesn’t hurt.
Next time think before you think of yourself as not beautiful. What if it can earn you money? After all, people are paying to watch you make faces. Usually, the competition has its own share of rules. For instance, contestants are strictly not allowed to wear makeup. Before starting, participants have to put their head through a horse collar, which is known as gurning through a braffin’, and do their best gurn to look bad (by societal standards).
12 Chess Boxing – What A Fusion
We are good at fusing stuff, no matter what the stuff is. Chess Boxing is a strange yet intelligent combination of chess and boxing. Initially, the game was started as an art performance by Dutch artist Lepe Rubingh; later, it became a competitive sport. Next time, don’t think that your idea doesn’t make any sense. The game is played in Germany, India, UK, and Russia.
The sport challenges the body and the mind. It is fought in eleven alternate rounds of chess and boxing, starting with 4 minutes of chess and 3 minutes of boxing, and so on. To win, you need to be good at both disciplines.
The players can win either by knockout, checkmate, time limit, disqualification by referee, or opponent resignation. When you are unsure of your fate, pray that the opponent withdraws.
There are specialized training centers to make you skilled enough to compete professionally in Chess Boxing. The game is now a professional sport and is spreading to Asian countries. How often is a random experiment by someone becomes a sport of brains and brawn? Even Rubingh may not have fathomed the potential of his game!
Although this may not be a bizarre sport, the fact that it emerged out of an experiment is bizarre, and fantastic.
11 The Great Knaresborough Bed Race - because running wasn't difficult enough
Who thought that the comfy bed on which people relax after an honest day’s work would be used in racing? The North Yorkshire town of Knaresborough hosts an annual Knaresborough Bed Race every year. The event was started as a fundraiser by the newly-formed Knaresborough Round Table in 1966. The first-of-its-kind concept caught the eye of thousands of spectators, and from then on it has been conducted at different places in the world.
The team is made of five persons, among which four are the runners and one is the rider. It is wise to choose the skinny person as the rider - you’ll need to carry them along with the heavy bed. There will be a parade as a part of the event in which decorated teams walk down the runway along with twenty supporters.
The rider wears a helmet and enjoys the bumpy ride on a decorated bed. The runners need to push the bed along the steep grassy bank, the park land, and along the scenic waterside. Crowded marketplaces to streets add to the woes of the runners. The team that passes through all the hurdles the fastest are declared the winners. Apart from bed racing, the team whose bed looks the most elegant are given the Best Decorated Bed award.
10 Bee Wearing Competitions - *shudders*
Contestants wearing shorts, glasses, and nose plugs aren’t playing beach volleyball or diving in the sea, they are getting ready to attract bees to their body.
A rather dangerous Bee-Wearing or Bee-Bearding competition is held in China every year, in which the participant that carries the heaviest swarm of bees is declared the victor.
The Bee-Wearing contest is a part of China’s annual tradition where a fleet of people participate to show their bravery. Contestants need to bare the bees for an hour on their body. Queen bees are locked in small cages and tied around contestants’ bodies to attract the normal bees. As the clock starts ticking, the swarm of bees sticks on to the competitors’ bodies, forming a suit made of bees.
Contestants need to showcase valor, keep their calm, and draw as many bees as they can. Once the time is up, the participants are made to stand on a weighing scale to measure the weight of the bees. More the bees on your body, more are the chances you win. Attracting bees with more weight than you can also make you win.
But is it worth it? Well, we would not risk getting stung by an entire bee colony, despite it being domesticated. Would you?
9 World Stone Skimming Championship
Do you remember the days when you sat by a calm lake or pond with your friends or your siblings, and throw rocks to see whose will skim the furthest? Nostalgic, isn’t it! If by any chance you are a master stone-skimmer, then you ought to visit Scotland this Fall for the World Stone Skimming Championship.
The idea of having a tournament for stone skimming was formed as a gag at a local bar, but it later became an actual, serious championship where hundreds of skimmers from Scotland, Wales, Britain, the Netherlands, the United States, and India visit every year to compete. Moreover, hundreds of spectators come along to watch the championship.
The contestants break records and even get their names inducted in the Guinness Book of World Records. Indeed a matter of pride. One of the champions opines that the “stone skimming game can become popular all over the world, every man and dog skim stones.” Well my dog doesn’t care if I throw a ball at him, so I’ll pass. But there certainly seems to be truth in that.
If you are up to it, go get a couple of dozens of pebbles and practice stone skimming. Ask your dog to help, if that’s a viable option.
8 Toe Wrestling Championships
The sport is similar to arm wrestling, except with toes. Fascinating! In this sport, you go toe-to-toe and face-off (or toe-off, if you like puns) with some of the strongest feet.
Toe wrestling competition is in full swing in Northern England where an entire championship is dedicated to the unusual sport every summer. Within a short span of time, the competition became wildly popular all around the world.
The idea happened when a group of friends wanted to raise their nation in athletics and invent a sport where England could reign supreme, and thus toe wrestling saw the light and glory.
Toe tangos tried to take this strange sport to the Olympics; however, things didn’t go well. Still, the game gained massive attention over the years. Strong men with bigger toes are more likely to win this competition. The competition is conducted in a ring where two toe-wrestlers enter the square ring with bare feet, sit on the floor, lock their toes and fights to wrangle each other’s toes.
Experts say, “Toe wrestling requires more skill than strength. Opponents need to keep their non-competing feet in the air.” Before the competition begins, a nurse inspects the toe hygiene of the competitors and look for any hidden weapons (what a toe can hide, we have no idea).
Toe tangos exercise their toe muscles to make it strong on D-Day. So, you can think of a competition with the remaining fingers of the legs, and become famous. Good luck!
7 Air Guitar Competitions - Party like a rock star, save money on strings
Did you ever put on your headphones in a crowded bus and started swinging to the music while everyone was looking, and later felt embarrassed? Well, then the problem isn’t yours, you just didn’t have the right audience!
Air guitar is a form of dance where the participant plays an imaginary guitar, rock or heavy-metal style. It usually consists of exaggerated strumming and picking motions which are overpowered with loud singing or just lip-synching. Why shell money on those heavy metallic strings where you can just act having one in your arms and dance. Moreover, you can’t say you couldn’t live your dream because you didn’t have money, right?
The first air guitar competition was held in 1996 as a part of the Oulu Music Video Festival in Finland. Later, countries such as US, Australia, UK and the rest of the world got onboard with the dance. The US Air Guitar National Championship is held every year, and the winners compete for the world title in Finland.
Participants submit themselves to the spell of the electrifying music and wear their rock postures. The competition welcomes everyone irrespective of their age, sex and social status. Despite being global, the air guitar is still considered unusual and funny.
6 Extreme Ironing
The satisfaction of wearing a well-pressed dress is priceless. But sometimes one can’t help but obsess over ironing clothes. At least, that’s what we believe after learning about the Extreme Ironing sport.
Extreme Ironing is an extreme sport in which you take your iron and ironing board to a remote, dangerous location such as the mountainside and, well, iron your clothes. Back in 1999, the idea of extreme ironing occurred to a Leicester man, Philip Shaw, who had a tough day at the knitwear factory he worked for and started ironing his pile of clothes.
Later, Shaw thought that doing it indoors was quite boring, so he took it to his garden, and when his friend came in and asked what he was doing, he replied, “extreme ironing”. From then, the two friends challenged their other friends to join their adventure.
Shaw took it upon himself to promote his invention by touring the United States, Fiji, New Zealand, Australia and South Africa. Soon, it became quite popular across the world.
The crazy sport became even more popular when Britain’s Channel 4 by Wag TV produced a documentary named Extreme Ironing: Pressing for Victory. Taking inspiration from this tongue-in-cheek sport, you can also draw your own ideas.
5 World Beard & Moustache Championships
In some cultures, a man’s pride is associated with his moustache and beard. Whether you think that’s an acceptable notion or not, not all men grow beards and moustaches out of pride. Some do just because they love it. What’s strange is, there are actually championships that treat growing facial hair as a sport.
The World Beard & Moustache Association (WBMA) has been conducting this championship since 2004, in which men flaunt their healthy and lengthy moustaches and beards. The first such contest was, however, held in 1990 in Germany.
The contest is conducted all over the world and draws participation from people who surprise the audience with their creatively coiffed beards and moustaches. Men showcase their extreme facial-hair-styling abilities; beard concentrically-circled, vertically-placed mustaches complemented with braided coiffures, costumes and probes.
Thousands of beard and moustache aficionados take part in the World Beard & Moustache Championship in Texas every year in three categories, including mustache, partial and full-beards. On the other hand, the Men National Beard & Moustache Championships take place in 18 categories and is open to competitors from all over the world.
A panel of judges sit upon the chair and rank the men flaunting their magnificent beards and moustaches, and crowns the one which they liked the most.
4 Cow Chip Tossing Championship - Hope they wash their hands afterwards...
We may just have found the most pointless and bizarre yet fun activity for you to do - Cow Chip Tossing.
The Cow Chip Tossing Championship is usually a game where you need to throw a piece of dried buffalo dung to the farthest distance. The person whose chip flings the longest is crowned winner. Hundreds of people including young and old flood to the competition in Texas.
The contest seems to be one of the wackiest of all the contests around the world.
The competition is conducted in categories for men, women and teams. The contestants are given a choice to pick their winning chip from the pile of dung at the venue. The cow chip should be more than six inches wide. Champions of the game suggest the smaller the chip, the longer the fling.
The World Championship Cow-Chip-Throwing Contest is usually conducted in the month of April in Beaver every year with concerts, craft shows, and a parade before the main event. The cow chip-tossing started when the members of Chamber of Commerce meeting gave a thought to attract more visitors to their Cimarron Territory Celebration through a gimmick. Inadvertently, the popularity of the gimmick grew and it became an actual competition.
3 Cheese Rolling Championships - I mean, Who wouldn't tumble down a hill for cheese?
A double Gloucester cheese rolling down the steep hills and a swarm of people chasing it is all about the Cooper’s Hill Cheese-Rolling and Wake competition. The event is held annually during the Spring Bank Holiday in Gloucestershire, England. On the day of the competition, thousands of people from all over England gather to see the participants chasing a cheese roll.
The origin of the event is unclear; however, people carry the legacy of celebration every year till date. Some claim that the event seeded during the early 1800s to celebrate the turn of winter.
The game begins when the “master of ceremonies” releases a nine-pound wheel of Double Gloucester cheese, which rolls at a speed of 70 miles per hour. The competitor who gets first down will be awarded with chunks of cheese.
The event sounds silly but it actually creates chaos and even turns violent with people falling off and bumping into each other down the slope, aggressively.
Every year dozens of people get injured in the competition. There is no entry fee; anyone can participate in the competition. If you lose in the competition, you can heal the loss by exploring the beautiful places across the countryside in the Gloucestershire.
2 World Pancake Racing Championships - Better master that flip!
Who doesn’t love their grandma’s pancakes? But did you know that you could race with a pancake. Sounds unusual, right? Pancake racing is a part of England’s quirky tradition; however, its genesis is still shrouded in mystery. It seems to have multiple origins. The race is conducted to celebrate the start of Lent, a Christian tradition, and race was first conducted in 1445.
During the Second World War, the custom was revived by the Vicar of Olney, Reverend Canon Ronald Collins, in 1948.
In a pancake race, contestants run holding a frying pan with a pancake in it. As they run, they toss the pancake in the air so that it flips and lands back in the pan on the other side. People will form a team of two and four; each team member will run along a short course, stop to flip their pancake four times and pass it to another person in the team. The entire team, which crosses the finish line, are declared winners. However, they must ensure that the pancakes have landed safely.
The most famous pancake race in the UK is the Rehab Parliamentary Pancake Race. It is celebrated outside the Houses of Parliament and played by Members of Parliaments and Journalists, and given live TV coverage.
1 The World Egg Throwing Championship - Yes, this is actually a real thing
Yes, you heard it right. We are not even kidding when we say there is a World Egg Throwing Championship where you are required to throw eggs at other people. There is a dedicated body – World Egg Throwing Federation – that takes care of the event.
The event was born in 2006 at Swaton in England. Since then, the event is held annually during Swaton Vintage Day. The egg-flinging games come in various categories. In one of the categories, a team of two will throw and catch eggs from a greater distance. In static relay, a team of 11 members will pass the eggs down the line as swiftly as possible.
At a similar event called the Russian egg roulette – the egg is flung at a human target – two players will compete against each other where they have to choose six eggs to smash them on each other’s forehead. Among the six eggs, one is raw, and the person getting the raw egg must smash it on their forehead and their game ends there. The game has become a national pride of sorts for the contestants. If this excites you and you want to try it out, remember not to practice it indoors!
References: huffingtonpost, businessinsider, cnn, dailymail, comedycentral, outsideonline, wackynation