While quite a few NileGuide staffers are marathon runners, cyclists, even daredevils, some of us NileGuiders are the kids who got picked last in gym class, never made it onto varsity, and still don’t own a pair of cross trainers. Even though some of us will never win the New York Marathon or climb Everest, we’re so over wallowing in self pity. There are still PLENTY of sports out there that cater to the less-than-athletic types who may be weak in body but have a strong appreciation for silliness, irony, and getting dirty! They may be dumb, ridiculous, and over the top, but these are competitions we might actually be able to win.
Let the games begin! (Ed. note: sad but necessary update to the World Sauna Bathing Championships below)
1. World Championship Cardboard Boat Races
Where: Herber Springs, Arkansas
When: End of July
Image: Canuk with a camera/Flickr
What to do when your quaint small town isn’t getting any of ‘dem big city tourists? How about start a race! In 1987, Chamber of Commerce Vice President and a local newspaper owner created the “Cardboard Boat Regatta” to encourage people to visit the Greers Ferry Lake area in Herber Springs, Arkansas.
Yes — we did say cardboard. This race requires all participants to fabricate their own vessel out of corrugated cardboard, capable of staying afloat in four heats of a 200-yard course. Last time we checked, water really does a number on cardboard, especially when large teams are required to man them. Racers spend the whole year creating masterfully crafted vessels that never make it out of the lake alive.
Image: Canuck with a camera/Flickr
Really awesome wrecks even have the chance of winning the “Titanic Award” for most spectacular crash (or should we say, disintegration).
2. Mike the Headless Chicken Days
Where: Fruita, Colorado
Mike was a happy, sweet chicken living in 1945 on a farm in Fruita Colorado. One night, Mike’s hungry owner Lloyd started jonesin’ for some chicken and decided it was Mike the chicken’s time to go.
In an attempt to kill Mike so he could be made into dinner, Lloyd chopped Mike’s head off. Instead of killing him, Mike the chicken didn’t seem to even notice that he was sans head, and he kept on with his normal nighttime activities. A little freaked out, Lloyd decided to leave him be, have a hamburger, and deal with it in the morning.
When Lloyd returned the next day, Mike was A-OK, preening his feathers and attempting to peck at food. After taking him to a university to be studied, Lloyd discovered that Mike’s “accident” (cough cough), had left him with his brain stem totally intact, and a lucky blood clot had stopped him from bleeding to death. Lloyd knew that Mike the chicken was something special, and man and bird began a whirlwind tour of the country.
People paid 25 cents to see Mike, and he was insured for a whopping $10,000. Lloyd even fed him grain and water with an eyedropper that went straight into his esophagus. Sadly, one night in the dusty desert, death finally caught up with Mike, and he choked to death after living a headless existence for a total of 18 months.
Although neither Mike nor Lloyd were particularly athletic, the festival held every year in Fruita in honor of Mike offers a bevvy of sporting events. The most intense competitions include three separate types of tractor races. In the first, the driver is blindfolded and a passenger helps them steer their tractor by tapping the driver with a fly swatter. The second event features an obstacle course where the driver attempts to navigate his tractor while holding a glass of water and trying not to spill it. Finally, the third event is a “headless chicken hockey”, where a tractor driver attempts to get a rubber chicken into a goal, using a hockey stick.
Images: Russ Abbot Tattoos
3. Up Helly Aa
Where: Lerwick, Shetland Islands
When: The last Tuesday in January
Image: Sony ericcson W810i/Flickr
By the looks of this fiery, horned-hat-wearing, testosterone-driven festival, one would think it had deep roots in the Viking heritage of the region — but no! This ridiculous rager only dates back to 1870, when a group of intellectuals suggested that instead of the angry, tar-barrel-burning mob that traditionally amassed and ran rampant through the streets of Lerwick every year on the 24th day of Christmas, there should be some sort of organized event instead.
Although it is unclear how the Viking theme emerged, organizers decided there would be a dress-up party every year where they could disguise (called “guizing”) themselves as feared vikings and set fire to life-sized canoes, that they have spent all year building. After the bonfire, the men then take the rest of the night to get completely wasted, and a national holiday (a.k.a. no work!) is scheduled for the morning after.
Although drinking, dressing up, and making fire may not be a traditional “sport” in most circles, these Scottish men take awesomeness to such a new level that we think the event deserves the athletic title.
4. Big Mountain Furniture Race
Where: Whitefish, Montana
When: The end of the ski season
The end of the ski season for a ski town is a pretty sad spring day. What could make it better? Cruising down the mountain one last time… on your couch?
Yep! Ski-bums and sledding enthusiasts alike can participate in this downhill furniture race where people are encouraged to make it down the mountain on pretty much anything they have in their house. Recliners, cribs, a dresser drawer, coffins, etc., all do the trick, just as long as they have skis or a snowboard attached to the bottom, the vehicle has breaks, and the rider has payed the $50 entrance fee.
Along with the prize the fastest racer, one goes out to the person or group that races down the hill and stops closest to the barrier at the end without hitting it — precision counts!
The winner gets a $500 sofa from a local furniture store as a prize. Please note: if you’re visiting from out of town make sure you come prepared with your own upholstery – local hotels bolt down EVERYTHING in their rooms.
5. Shin Kicking Championships
Where: Early June
When: Gloucestershire, UK
Everyone has accidentally bumped their shin, and even the toughest dudes out there will tell you it hurts. Now imagine getting kicked in the shin ON PURPOSE, OVER AND OVER AGAIN with only some measly straw stuffed into your socks for protection — that’s pretty much the gist of the Shin Kicking Championships. Except after you repeatedly kick and get kicked, you have to push your opponent down in order to win the round. After that, you do it all over again in the next heat.
Image: James from SoGlos.com/Flickr
As ridiculously painful as this modern version of the championship sounds, it was a million times worse when the competition was first conceived. Dating back to 1636, the games used to encourage its participants to wear steel toed boots, and men would prepare themselves by “hardening” their shins with coal hammers. Seriously. Worst. Sport. Ever.
Image: James from SoGlos.com/Flickr
Don’t think we’re biased. SKAB (Shin Kicking Association of Britain) is pushing to get shin kicking into the 2012 London Olympics, and has not yet succeeded. Sorry SKAB — don’t think it will be happening any time soon.
6. Sauna Bathing World Championships (UPDATED)
Where: Heinola, Finland
When: Early August
This championship sprung organically from good-’ol-fashioned rivalry. After a friendly game of “who-can-stay-in-the-public-sauna-longer” was repeatedly interrupted by annoying bystanders, some Finnish friends decided to organize their own sauna sitting world championships.
Although it’s hard to believe, the starting temperature for the steam in the saunas is 230° Fahrenheit – 110° Celsius [Ed note: Seriously. Check out the rules]. We were skeptical too, but as it turns out, the Finnish are known for their incredibly steamy saunas, and competitors are well prepared to withstand that kind of heat… at least for a few minutes. The 2008 men’s winner lasted 18 minutes and 15 seconds.
Obviously, this sauna competition is no relaxing spa appointment. There are strict official rules for competing, including proper sauna-sitting etiquette:
The competitors will have to sit in the sauna with buttocks and thighs on the seat. Posture must be erect; forearms must stay on the knees and arms have to be in an upright position. Touching skin with hand is forbidden.
UPDATE: Even though the sauna championships have been held since 1999 without a major incident and competitors regularly withstand temperatures of up to 110° C, tragedy hit the 2010 event with the death of a Russian competitor. While we write about such events with a lighthearted spirit, NileGuide certainly offers condolences to anyone who is hurt, or the families or competitors whose lives are cut short like this.
Images: Sauna Heinola
7. Sumo Suit Athletics World Championships
Where: London, UK
Image: Hayward Public Library/Flickr
With the motto “Slower, Lower, Weaker”, it’s no surprise the Sumo Suit Athletics World Championships aren’t for the “traditional” athlete. Whether you’ve honed your sumo suit skills at your last high school graduation, or you happen to have your own suit at home (you weirdo), this competition gives slow, uncoordinated athletes a great excuse for being slow, uncoordinated athletes. Started in the 2008 Olympic year, this competition has many traditional track and field events, including the high jump.
Although the sporting event is just barely taking off, this incredibly dramatic video is sure to inspire like-minded “athletes” to join the fun!
8. Tin Bath Championships
Where: Castletown, Isle of Man
When: Early July
Image: Isle of Man Guide
Although watching grown men and women squeeze into antique tin baths to paddle their hearts out in a 400 yard race should seem relatively degrading, it’s actually pretty adorable. Lots of other people think so too! Since 1971, over 4,000 spectators have been coming out each year to watch hundreds of racers paddle their mini-boats.
The event is sponsored by the Castletown Ale Drinkers Society, which donates all the cash made during the event to charity. Awww… sweet!
Image: Emma Wood
Although this may sound like good, clean fun, even the Tin Bath Championships isn’t above controversy. Just moments before the 2010 race, some illegal enhancements, including cable ties to secure floats, were found on a few of the racing vessels.
In addition, the exceptionally quick sinking of a jousting barge set up by the Castletown Hockey Club left some jousting-loving hockey players yelling FOWL, though organizer Dave Collister refuted the claims, saying:
It was probably more to do with bad luck, anyway we then stuffed the holes with race bibs allowing them to continue the stunt.
The great privilege of being the first to sink was taken by Gary Christian for his abysmal 20 yard effort. Reports from Dave Collister describe ‘water in bath’ as the likely cause for his early retirement.
Image: Isle of Man Guide
9. Man Versus Horse Marathon
Where: Llanwrtyd, Wales
10. World Toe Wrestling Championships
Where: Bentley Brook Inn, Ashbourne, Derbyshire, UK
The Bentley Brook Inn has been holding this Ben & Jerry’s sponsored championship for years. According to the Inn’s website, the event was first held in 1976 because the organizer, George Burgess,
Wanted to give England the chance to be world-beaters in at least one sporting sphere.
While NileGuide doesn’t ascribe to Mr. Burgess’s pessimism, with motivation like that, you can imagine those cheeky Brit’s utter dismay when a, gasp, CANADIAN won the competition in 1977, the second year it was held [Ed note: Not surprised]. Utterly shamed, the games were put on hold and only reinstated again in 1990.
Today, the championships are rife with puns so fantastic, they even put our NileGuide-punsters to shame. For example, the “Toedium” acts as the platform for the contestants, the “Toesrack” holds their feet in place, and after the yelling of “TOEDOWN”, both opponents attempt to pin the others foot to the floor. If a player is ready to give in, a simple “Toemuch” tells their opponent to cease and desist.
It gets mean — Alan “Nasty” Nash and Ian “the Destroyer” Davies have been reigning supreme in the competition for years (we like their style). According to the official rules, no steroids or other artificial stimulants are allowed, apart from alcohol and ice cream.
11. Redneck Games
Where: East Dublin, Georgia
Image: Sony ericsson w810i/Flickr