Features

These 6 Sports Are Competing For The Title Of ‘World’s Wackiest’

And it's pretty much a draw.

Boosting health, promoting camaraderie and self-confidence, sparking stadium tiffs (okay, maybe not the last one)…we all know sports is a universal pursuit of many virtues. But while most of the world is content with the regular football, rugby, tennis and co., some people have come up with slightly more creative ways to exercise and measure their worth. From making unlikely uses of the local flora and fauna to bringing fiction to life, here are six rather bonkers ways people choose to have fun and to defy each other around the world.


#1 Chessboxing

Where: Worldwide

Who says you can’t be both brainy and manual? Perhaps to disprove the cliché that intellectuals are un-sporty (and vice versa), Dutch performance artist Iepe Rubingh took the idea of combining chess and boxing from French comic book Froid Équateur a little too seriously, and made it a thing. In what is now a full-blown competitive sport, opponents in turn check mate and knock out each other in alternating rounds of chess and boxing. There are particularly active chessboxing leagues in Germany, the UK, India, and Russia, and you can witness the professional strangeness of this event at one of its World Championships.


#2 Haka Pei

Where: Easter Island

What do you do if you have volcano slopes waiting to be luged down but no snow and, well, no sled? Use banana trunks, obviously. Each February, the men of Rapa Nui, aka Easter Island, try to outperform each other tobogganing down the steep Maunga Pu’i hill on a bizarre contraption made of two banana tree stumps. In this highlight of the island’s traditional Tapati festival, competitors take turns sliding at speeds up to 80km/hr, and the fastest wins. In case that sounds too mundane, note that the sport is practiced fully naked except for a small loincloth and abundant face paint.


#3 Yak Polo

Where: Mongolia and Pakistan

Yes, yak (or sarlagan) polo is exactly what it sounds like. As if driving a ball with a long-handled mallet on horseback wasn’t tricky enough, Mongolia decided to raise the difficulty to yak level. What was initially invented as a tourist attraction to bring visitors to remote parts of the country in the early 2000s has taken off like a rocket among locals and has now even crossed into Pakistan. In a yak polo match, two teams of five players try to manoeuvre their bulky steeds so as to hit the ball on the ground while doing their best to avoid the occasional dog, person, or horse allowed onto the field. You can have a hearty laugh at the sport’s antics at the late-July Broghil Pass festival.


#4 Yak Skiing

Where: India

A bit blasé with adventure sports? Think you’ve ticked all extreme (and extremely weird!) activities off your list? Enter yak skiing. Tibetan man Peter Dorje one-upped his Mongol and Pakistani neighbours by taking yak sports to the logical next level: using them as ski lifts! It works like this: a skier waiting at the bottom of a hill and a yak at the top of it are attached to either end of a rope looped through a pulley fitted to a tree. The skier shakes a bucket of nuts to encourage the animal to charge downhill, which causes him to be propelled uphill at a vertiginous speed.

Although the sport is currently only offered by its inventor in the Indian hill resort of Manali, it has been voted one of the ten best ways to relax the mind in Asia by Time magazine. All the more reason to try it, although it’s best to keep in mind this practical advice from its creator: “Never shake the bucket of nuts before you’re tied to the yak rope” (or else you’ll be flattened by the hairy creature). Good to know.


#5 Camel Robot Racing

Where: Qatar and United Arab Emirates

Another animal, another absurd sport! In the case of camel robot racing, however, the oddness doesn’t originate so much from the camels themselves as from their riders: while camel racing – or the “sport of sheiks” – has been a long-standing fixture in the Middle-East, the region used to make very controversial use of young children as jockeys. Since 2004, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates have thankfully taken a step towards improving their Human Rights records by replacing them with… robots. The result: a sport that is at once technologically, socially, and ethically progressive and a lot more entertaining.


#6 Bog Snorkelling

Where: Wales

For a rather small nation, Wales scores high on the goofiness scale. You can’t blame the Welsh for their lack of imagination, or of self-deprecation: every other August, they hold the World Alternative Games in the UK’s smallest town, Llanwrtyd Wells. While trying to pronounce that name is a challenge in itself, the tests involved are a tad more physical, including bathtubbing, husband dragging, wife carrying, pea shooting, wheelbarrow racing, etc. But one of the standout events has to be bog snorkelling, which consists in swimming 133m in a trench cut filled with murky, slimy water through a peat bog in the shortest time possible. This is of course a lot more fun in ridiculous costumes, although there is still room for ‘serious’ performances: in fact, the 2014 championship saw the establishment a new world record. It’ll be up for the taking again in 2016, so start training!

(Lead image: Omar Chatriwala/Flickr)

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