No matter the vast differences in human culture and history, sports unite us all. Though each region has its own unique form of physical competition, there are now a handful of sports that are played on a professional and recreational level around the world.
The most popular include football (soccer) and cricket, while others like basketball and baseball are slowly becoming more popular. Still, no matter how celebrated, some sports are a bit weird when re-examined, while others are outright baffling.
Below are ten of the world’s weirdest organized sports, ranked top to bottom according to perceived normalcy.
The only time spectators bat an eye at surfing is when they go to try it themselves. Only then does it come into focus how dangerous and strange surfing is. Competitors paddle out to sea with only a flimsy board to protect them from marine predators and Mother Nature’s whims, then try to stand on the board for as long as possible. Sure, the sport looks cool, has a global following, and is associated with a laidback lifestyle that prioritizes the environment, but the mechanics of surfing and the skills needed to succeed are some of the strangest in the sporting world.
The USA’s NCAA oversees one of the country’s most popular sports leagues: college football. Hundreds of thousands of fans fill up stadiums each year, and spectators can wager on smaller divisions like the MAC Conference winner all year round. In this example, the sport itself isn’t strange—it’s the league that oversees college football that draws attention. First, there aren’t any professional athletes in the NCAA, only undergraduate students on athletic scholarships. Second, they aren’t earning any money for their work (though top universities usually walk away with millions). Lastly, there are 130 competing teams in the NCAA’s top tier alone, which is dozens more than most pro leagues.
Is it a sport or theatre? Diehard WWE fans know the answer: a convincing pile driver needs more than a dash of both. Though not considered an official sports league, the WWE harnesses the heart of sports (high-octane competition), then dresses it up as something weird and frightening.
The only thing harder than getting back onto your feet after an uppercut is then immediately sitting down to play chess. But for competitors in the World Chessboxing Association, there’s nothing more satisfying than declaring checkmate right before hearing the judges call a TKO.
Deep in the forests of Siberia, it’s not uncommon for a physical exposition to include a slapping tournament. With no more than a table between them, two opponents line up and take turns slapping the other across the face. There’s only one rule: keep slapping or sit back down.
Snow Ball Fights
Throughout the world’s northernmost climates, countless outdoor sports have incorporated snow—but few competitions are as satisfying as Yukigassen from Japan. These organized snowball fights include two teams with seven players, which battle to capture an item from the other team. Yukigassen has since been exported to areas like Russia, Canada, and Alaska.
Sometimes referred to as ‘muggle quidditch’, this game was pulled from the pages of fantasy fiction. The sport was created by JK Rowling and designed to be played by witches and wizards on broomsticks. The live version started out decidedly awkward but has since evolved into a standard ball game. There’s even an international organizing body today.
Since the dawn of humankind, people have been interested in seeing just how much they can eat in a single sitting. Today, this is an organized global sport that includes major prize money. The set-up is simple: competitors are provided a pitcher of water and an endless supply of hotdogs for one hour.
Lawn Mower Racing
The popularity of motorized lawnmowers in North American has led to the creation of a legitimate motorsport. With mowing blades removed for safety, drivers line up to speed through a small racetrack with minimal obstacles. Though many participate for fun, the sport is starting to gain more followers, bigger prize money, and more supped-up lawnmowers.
What began as a silly way to gather with friends in a public place has since transformed into the Pillow Fight League. The group is based in Toronto and considers itself ‘semi-professional’, organizing fights between women in impromptu rings set up in bars around downtown Toronto. The brainchild of a burlesque group active in the area, the Pillow Fight League has slowed in recent years.
Lisa has a Bachelor’s of Science in Communication Arts. She is an experienced blogger who enjoys researching interesting facts, ideas, products, and other compelling concepts. In addition to writing, she likes photography and Photoshop.