Seven Wild and Wacky Sporting Festivals Around the World
Now that the Winter Olympics are over, and events such as curling and the skeleton are no longer on the air, you may be in need of a weird sporting fix. Luckily, festivals devoted to wacky sports are held year round, everywhere from Georgia to Australia. Check out this list of the top seven strangest sports festivals, to tide you over until at least the Summer Olympics.
If you don’t know what a peat bog is, bog snorkeling sounds like quite a pleasant sport. It turns out, a peat bog is a brown, swampy wetland site full of moss, decay, and insects. In the tiny town of Llanwrtyd Wells in Wales (home to just 600 residents), this bog is pretty much the main tourist attraction they have to offer. So, 25 years ago, townspeople decided to attract visitors by hosting an event centered around this bog. Now, every August, participants don flippers, masks, snorkels (and sometimes costumes) dive in to the bog, stick their heads under the soupy water, and race through two 60-yard channels.
In case swimming through muck wasn’t challenging enough, no conventional swimming strokes can be used (swimmers are powered by flipper kicks only, with their arms held out straight in front of them). Swimmers with open wounds or a low tolerance for grossness are discouraged from participating.
Prizes go to the fastest finishers and the best dressed. The world record hovers around the 90-second mark, which makes sense, as swimmers probably want to get out of the bog as fast as possible.
Beer Can Regatta
Boat races are a dime a dozen, but a race where the boats are made out of beer cans? That’s worth seeing! Every summer, teams build boats using empty beer cans (or soda cans for younger competitors) and attempt to race them at Mindil Beach in Darwin, Australia. Previous years’ entries have included boats as big as 65 meters and a boat in the shape of an ambulance. Teams whose boats didn’t pass the seaworthiness test, can compete in the Henley-on-Mindil, racing on foot while carrying their boat down the beach.
Legend has it that the race was started in 1974 after Cyclone Tracy hit Darwin. Rebuilding efforts brought in a lot more workers in to the town, and the town’s beer consumption spiked. As this was well before recycling programs were common, the regatta was devised as a way to clean up beer cans littering the town.
The race’s altruistic roots live on today, as all proceeds are donated to various charities. Although the boat race is the main festival attraction, other events include: a thong throwing competition (that would be flip-flops being thrown, not underwear), tug of war, and iron men contests.
As Atlanta, Georgia, prepared to hold the 1996 Summer Olympics, lots people started joking about Southern rednecks hosting the Olympics. So the self-proclaimed Southern Rednecks of Dublin, Georgia’s Y-96 radio station, decided to play along with the jokes and host their own Redneck Olympics. When 5,000 people showed up, they made it an annual event.
There’s a contest for every type of redneck, including: beauty contests (the big hair contest), beauty and functionality (the mud pit belly flop), athletics (the hubcap hurl, the cigarette flip, and dumpster diving), foodies (bobbing for pigs’ feet, the seed spitting contest), and the musically inclined (the armpit serenade). The armpit serenade is usually the most popular event, and has featured songs such as Dixie, and the Green Acres theme.
Be sure to make it to the games in time for the opening ceremony – a local “redneck” lights the Ceremonial BBQ Grill with a torch constructed out of Budweiser cans. The games have become so popular, that one year, a couple got married at the festival, and then celebrated by jumping in the belly flop mud pit. If the games and people watching don’t interest you – at least come for the Southern food (including fried alligator).
While some Southerners have taken offense to the politically incorrect contest, they can take comfort in knowing that at least it’s for a good cause – all proceeds go to charity.
Man vs. Horse Marathon
It seems like an unfair contest, pitting humans against horses in a foot race, but after 25 years, runner Huw Lobb won the race. So who came up with the crazy idea of having humans and horses race? Unsurprisingly, the event is the product of a drunken argument in a pub – one man claimed that humans could beat horses in a long race. His drinking partner took him up on the challenge and organized the first race in Wales in 1980.
The track is 22 miles (so not technically a marathon) and takes place over rocky, winding terrain – which helps give humans a bit of an edge. In 1985 (probably after everyone got bored seeing the humans lose almost every year) the race was opened up to horses, runners, and cyclists, and that year a cyclist won, beating the horses by three minutes.
Keeping it exciting, the winner has gone back and forth between species for the last few years, and in 2007, a man won with an 11 minute lead! The event has gained in popularity every year, and now about 500 people and 40 horses compete. The prize money has also grown and is now around £25,000.
Wife Carrying Championship
Every year since July 1992, men in Finland have raced through an obstacle course of sand, grass, asphalt, and water hazards. But the real challenge is, they have to do it all while carrying a “wife” on their backs. This lady doesn’t have to be the competitor’s wife, just a female over the age of 17. Lest a man starve his wife so he has less to carry, the rules require the wife to weigh at least 49 kilos (if a “wife” does not meet the minimum weight requirement, the competitor has to carry a weighted backpack to make up the difference).
While the man runs through the course, the wife must cling on by any means possible. Popular carry positions include: piggyback, Estonian-style (the wife hangs on upside down with her legs around the husband’s neck), and over the shoulder (fireman’s carry). The fastest couple wins the wife’s weight in beer.
Other events at this festival include: a wife carrying sprint competition (a 100 meter run with on a track with a water obstacle) and a wife carrying team competition in which teams of three men run a relay race with the wife, and at each transfer of the wife, the carrier has to chug a secret concoction known as the “wife carrying drink” before passing the wife on to his teammate.
Every Australia Day weekend for the past 50 years, locals and tourists have gathered to see who can throw a 10 kilo dead tuna the farthest. You may be asking yourself, what exactly does dead tuna have to do with Australia Day? Well, the answer is nothing, really. But in 1960, the tuna industry was floundering (sorry), and so locals in Port Lincoln, Australia, decided to promote the industry with a festival, to be held when the tuna boats were sent out to sea.
This festival has now turned in to a five-day extravaganza, attracting over 40,000 visitors, and culminating in the World Championship Tuna Toss, though the tuna used is now a 10 kilo replica. The world record for tuna throwing is held by Sean Carlin, a former Olympic Hammer Thrower, who hurled the tuna 37.23 meters.
If you’re not interested in seeing a faux fish carcass be tossed around in the heat, there are plenty of other events, including swimming competitions, extreme kite and stand-up paddle boarding races, a singing contest, and a prawn peeling competition (competitors can only use one hand plus any other body part to peel two prawns. The first person to peel and eat their prawns, wins).
World Sauna Championships
Usually sitting in a sauna is considered to be a treat – a relaxing, calming experience. Not so in Heinola, Finland, during the World Sauna Championships, where sitting in a hot room becomes a sport.
Every August, competitors from around the world come to sit in a glass walled, 110 ºC sauna on stage. Every 30 seconds, one liter of water is poured on to the hot stones, increasing the humidity in the room. According to the competition’s very strict rules, the competitors must wear regular swimming attire, and have to sit with their butt and thighs touching the bench at all times. Anyone who wipes off sweat is disqualified.
Last year’s winner, Timo Kaukonen, withstood the heat for 3 minutes and 46 seconds. The heat is so intense that contestants have to sign waivers before competing, and the judges will periodically ask the competitors if they are ok – the contestants have to signal that they’re alive by giving a thumbs up (simply nodding is not accepted), and the winner has to stand up and leave the sauna without assistance.