Strangest Sporting Competitions by Jack Franks

Sport involves physical exertion and skill in which an individual or team competes against others for entertainment. Everyone knows the big hitters, documented to the finest degree, ushering in millions of viewers and passionate supporters.

But what about the quirky hidden gems that litter the sporting landscape? Sometimes, it’s a case of digging deeper to find some of the world’s most unique sporting offerings.

Some are born from tradition, while others are just downright weird. Either way, they all offer something out of the ordinary, far-flung from the bright lights of American Football and Basketball (boring).

This is the world of strange sports. Horse riding but with no horses, fuelling a potential argument with your wife because you didn’t carry her quick enough through an obstacle course; we did say it was odd.

Let’s take a closer look at eight of the strangest sporting competitions in the world.

Finnish Hobby Horse Championship

@hymyilevahevonen hobbyhorsing finnish championships 11.6.2022 in seinäjoki #keppihevostensm #hobbyhorse ♬ Sport Motivation(308214) – TimTaj

Where?: Seinäjoki, Finland

When?: June

Founded: 2013

In a nutshell?: It’s horse riding minus the horse. Instead, competitors use a toy horse head on a stick, participating in equestrian events such as show jumping.

A unique and unconventional (you can say that again) sporting event that has gained popularity in Finland and beyond, it involves individuals, typically young people, participating in competitions where they showcase their skills in riding and performing tricks with hobby horses.

Hobby horses are toys made from sticks or other materials, often adorned with a horse head and mane. Participants in the championship create and customize their hobby horses, giving them unique names and personalities. 

They compete in various categories during the event, such as show jumping, dressage, and freestyle performances. The sport gained momentum in Finland in the early 2010s, fueled by social media and online communities.

The World Beard and Moustache Championships

Man with big crazy beard

Where?: Burghausen, Germany

When?: June

Founded: 1990

In a nutshell: A biennial international competition that celebrates the artistry and creativity of facial hair styling.

Participants in the championships compete in different beard and mustache categories, each emphasizing specific styles and lengths. These categories range from natural full beards and mustaches to elaborate and sculpted designs, such as the Imperial Moustache, the Musketeer, the Verdi Beard, and the Whaler Beard.

The World Beard and Moustache Championships have grown in popularity, drawing competitors and enthusiasts from various countries. The competition provides a platform for showcasing the art of facial hair grooming and allows participants to connect with like-minded individuals worldwide.

San Diego Dog Surfing Championship

Dog on a surfboard

Where?: Del Mar Dog Beach, San Diego

When?: September

Founded: 2006

In a nutshell: Dogs take on the waves with their owner, riding surfboards in multiple divisions.

Held annually in Southern California, this canine competition brings together dogs of all breeds and sizes to ride the waves and compete for top honors in various surfing categories. No, really.

During the championships, dogs are accompanied by their human partners, who assist them in catching waves and riding them back to shore. The event features multiple divisions, each tailored to different skill levels and sizes of dogs.

From small breeds fearlessly riding the waves to larger canines elegantly balancing on their boards, the championships provide a unique opportunity for dogs to show off their surfing prowess and demonstrate their agility and water-loving nature.

Beyond the friendly competition, the event aims to raise awareness about animal rescue and promote pet adoption. Paw-some.

National Penny Farthing Championships

Where?: Evandale, Tasmania

When?: February 

Founded: 1983

In a nutshell: Dubbed the most competitive Penny Farthing race in the world, with events for all skill levels throughout one day.

Imagine the Tour de France, set over one day, with a bicycle boasting a large front wheel and a small one at the rear. That’s the Penny Farthing Championship, an annual event that brings together skilled riders worldwide to participate in races, time trials, and skill-based competitions.

Held in the small town of Evandale on the island of Tasmania, the niche event celebrates the vintage bicycle, bringing together enthusiasts likely donning vintage attire and discussing the bygone era of the historic Penny Farthing.

Hats off to Michael Sullivan – a Tasmanian resident – who currently boasts 77 medals from the event since its inception in 1983, collecting 20 wins, 24-second places, and 33 third-place finishes. 

World Cell Phone Throwing Championships

Where?: Savonlinna, Finland

When?: August

Founded: 2000

In a nutshell: An official sport in Finland where participants launch their mobile phones as far as possible.

Founded by Finnish business, Fennolingua in 2000, the original concept was hatched to give workers the idea to hurl their phones in frustration. That has since grown into an official sport, with several disciplines and categories offering men, women and teams the opportunity to participate in a widely cell-berated event.

Belgian Dries Feremans holds the world record for the longest throw for men, launching his device 110.42 meters in 2014, while Ivonne Wiener’s 67.85 effort in September 2017 still stands at the top of the charts for women. 

Among the categories in the sport’s handbook exists a ‘freestyle’ option, allowing contestants to earn points for aesthetic and creative choreography, the traditional ‘over the shoulder’ method, and the ‘junior’ section for participants under 12.

World Rock Paper Scissors Association

Rock paper sissors

Where?: Toronto, Canada

When?: April

Founded: 2002

In a nutshell: Participants worldwide go head-to-head in the simple game commonly used to make decisions.

Who knew such a simple game could have an extensive infrastructure and passionate following? 

The World Rock Paper Scissors Association is the premier destination for athletes looking to earn a prestigious spot in Toronto for the Championships. The sport has Collegiate, Junior, Online, United States, European and Canadian sections and a dedicated online hub for members.

This year’s edition attracted over 1,500 participants, making it the largest rock-paper-scissors competition ever. The two-day event – apparently filled with suspense – was eventually won by a competitor from the United States who took home a prize pot of $7,000! 

Wife Carrying World Championship

Man carrying wife

Where?: Sonkajärvi, Finland

When?: July

Founded: 1992

In a nutshell: Male competitors carry their female partners on their backs through a challenging obstacle course.

Part outlandish trust exercise, part thrilling honeymoon adventure, the Wife Carrying Championships beckon participants from all corners of the globe to compete in teams of three couples at a time. Amidst an epic sand track filled with challenging obstacles, including a daunting deep water pool, competitors showcase their strength and teamwork in this uproarious event.

The rules allow entrants to carry their wives, neighbors, partners, or friends; the designated ‘wife’ must be at least 17 years old and weigh a minimum of 49 kilograms. If she happens to be lighter, officials provide her with a weighted rucksack to even the playing field.

The winning couple is the ones who complete the course in the shortest possible time, but there are also awards for the most entertaining couple, the best costume, and the strongest carrier. The event has spread beyond Finland, with editions in Australia, North America, the United Kingdom and India.

Concurs de Castells

Concurs de Castells

Where?: Tarragona, Spain

When?: October

Founded: 1902

In a nutshell: Teams of people working together to create intricate and towering human structures.

A traditional Catalan event with deep cultural and historical significance, the “castells,” also known as human towers, are constructed by forming a solid and balanced base layer, upon which successive levels of participants climb, standing on each other’s shoulders, to reach impressive heights. The goal is to build the highest and most intricate human tower possible, with each level representing different formations and challenges.

Over 10,000 spectators pack into the bullring in the northeastern Spanish city every two years to see which group can scoop the 16,000 euro prize on offer, with the last winning team in 2022 constructing a 10-tier high human tower 13 meters high. The youngest and most agile team members regularly scramble up their teammate’s shoulders to the top.

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