Article: 25 Sports You Didn't Know Were Actually Sports: HowStuffWorks
25 Sports You Didn't Know Were Actually Sports
By: Ian Fortey
Image: Theredrocket at English Wikipedia/WikiCommons
About This Article
Like many things in human history, the origin of sports is pretty much shrouded in mystery. The idea of competition is so wrapped up in human nature that it predates any history we have. Obviously, we know where things like baseball and football began, but the most simple sports are as old as time itself. When did humans first start racing against one another? Or wrestling? Or boxing? These sports are as old as old gets, and they show that we've long valued the idea of competition, or proving our skill against other people. And, of course, having fun. Sports are supposed to be fun, after all.
So obviously those ancient sports have persevered. We love wrestling; we love boxing; we love baseball. But there are so many other sports being created in the world every day. Some are going to be flashes in the pan that no one wants to play, but others will manage to find a niche and click with people. Even though they're not making the rounds on ESPN and the people who play them don't have million-dollar contracts, they're still pretty cool.
Maybe it's time you got to know some of these unknown sports better. It's time to learn about some sports you never knew existed!
When hockey gets warm
Some folks call this game Octopush, but underwater hockey works just as well. The rules are very much like ice hockey — two teams of six players trying to score goals on one another, only the ice is balmy and relaxing, and you sink in it because it's a swimming pool. The game dates back to 1954 and is actually played all over the world today. There's even an Underwater Hockey World Championship every year.
Is it a sport or a chore?
Extreme ironing is as goofy as it sounds, but people take immense risks to get it done. Obviously, the sport is a bit of a joke, but if you climb a mountain for a joke, you've still climbed a mountain, right? The point of extreme ironing is to take an iron and an ironing board to a remote and arguably dangerous location and then iron something. It's not just mountains, either. Underwater, the Arctic, while skydiving, you name it.
How to get your kicks
The world has a lot of full-contact sports that can result in serious injury. Wrestling, boxing and MMA are three of the most popular ones, and we take them all seriously, so why not shin kicking? To properly play this rather old British game, two opponents hold each other by the collar and kick each other in the shins to try to get one another down on the ground. It's a bit like wrestling but can result in some seriously bruised legs.
Chess gets an upgrade
Chess has long been considered an intellectual's game or even a nerd game. But for those who appreciate both intellectual pursuits and brutal physical sports, there's always chess boxing, a competition which is precisely what it sounds like. Two fighters spend a few minutes playing chess, then a few minutes punching each other, then a few more minutes playing chess. A direct win in either sport is a total win, but there's also a chess timer that could run out.
The extreme sport for all seasons
Kitewing is not so much a sport on its own as a way to play a sport. The actual kitewing is a large kite you hold in your hands, as opposed to the kind that is on strings. With the kitewing in hand you could snowboard, surf, ski or anything else that will allow you to be pulled around by the power of wind. Under the right conditions, a kitewing can get you up to 55 miles per hour. Hopefully, you can hold on tight.
Get ready for a shock
Not every sport is going to appeal to every person, and there's a good chance Ultimate Taser Ball is going to appeal to very few people. The sport is essentially a mix of soccer and American football and makes use of a comically oversized ball. Also, there are Tasers. You can use an actual stun gun, albeit a lower-powered one than the kind police use, on your opponents during the course of the game. So that's different.
There's a lot of bounce in bossaball
The Spanish sport of bossaball has a strong volleyball influence behind it, but then it also involves trampolines and some soccer as well, so it's a bit of a next-level game. There's a lot of action and excitement in the sport. The name "bossa" derives from the same source as "bossa nova," as in super upbeat Brazilian music. In fact, bossaball is generally played with a soundtrack because music is supposed to be a part of it.
The ancient Gaelic game lives on!
Hurling is a game that isn't hugely popular in many places outside of Ireland, but inside of Ireland, it's as popular as ever. The roots of hurling date back 4,000 years. It doesn't seem too different from lacrosse at first glance, but one of the main differences, of course, is no one wears safety gear (other than helmets), and the ball can travel at speeds around 100 miles per hour.
Is this the most dangerous football game ever?
Royal Shrovetide football is madness given form and the very loose semblance of rules. The game has been played for centuries in the town of Ashbourne, England, and there are almost no rules to speak of. Any number of people can play — literally hundreds — and it is played for eight hours per day over Shrove Tuesday and Ash Wednesday. "No murder" is literally one of the rules of the game, as is a prohibition against transporting the ball in a car, hiding the ball or playing on holy ground like a church or cemetery.
Competitive eating is hard to swallow
Competitive eating may be the weirdest sport of all. Some people would argue it's not even close to a sport, but is that true? Competitors need to train extensively for competitions, they compete head-to-head against others, and they need to employ speed and strategy to secure a win. It may not be the same as hitting a baseball, but how many major leaguers can eat 71 hot dogs in a row like Joey Chestnut did in 2019?
How long can you hold your breath?
Water sports have never been quite as popular as sports on land. Is it because of the limitations in movement and speed? Or the fact that it's harder to organize players and find places to play? Maybe it's the potential danger. Whatever the case, freediving is one sport that ignores all of those things by asking you to become mildly superhuman and hold your breath. In 2012, a German free diver managed to hold his breath for over 20 minutes.
Fun for the whole family!
When it comes to odd sports, few can compete with wife carrying. As the name suggests, this involves a man carrying his wife. The point is to traverse some manner of an obstacle course, while carrying your wife, in the fastest time possible. The World Championships of Wife Carrying are held every year in Finland. The prize for the best carrier of a wife is the wife's weight in beer.
How to fly through the mountains
People like winter sports well enough, but the problem with skiing and snowboarding is that there's too much gravity. Snowkiting solves that problem admirably by ensuring that the ground doesn't have to stay under your feet. Like kiteboarding on the water, snowkiting makes use of a massive kite to not just propel you across snow and ice but to occasionally even take you off the ground to experience flight.
Boating gets frosty
Yachting is generally a sport for more affluent people, but if you have the means and a need for speed, ice yachting is the sport for you. Everything is a bit faster on the ice, as ice yachts have been clocked at speeds of over 100 miles per hour. The use of iceboats actually dates all the way back to the 17th century, so there's definitely some history here, even if most of us have never seen it.
Sepak takraw means "to kick a ball," which is the most basic name you can get for any kind of sport. It dates back to the 15th century in Malaysia and is a lot like volleyball, except you can use pretty much anything but your hands to play it. The result is a lot of extremely fancy, high-flying martial arts-style kicking.
One is the loneliest number
Likely we've all heard of synchronized swimming before — two or more people in a pool performing the exact same motions at the exact same time. It's quite a dance and probably very hard to accomplish. Now imagine that but take away everyone but a single person — that's solo synchronized swimming. This was no fly-by-night competition either; it was actually an Olympic event for several years. So what does one single person synchronize with? Reportedly it was the music and the routine, but it's probably easy to fake.
The sport of bog snorkeling is a relatively new thing in the world, having started back in 1976 in Wales. How does it work? A trench is dug through a peat bog, and competitors have to snorkel from one end of the filthy stream to the other as fast as they possibly can. This isn't a swim competition, and, in fact, you can't actually swim, you can only use your flippers to propel you forward. Competitions take place in Wales, Sweden, Australia and elsewhere.
If you can't be Pumpkin King, try this!
Pumpkins may not be the most graceful boats on the water, but you can still sail one if you try. The sport of pumpkin sailing, also called pumpkin kayaking or referred to en masse as a pumpkin regatta, has been going on for a few years now. Tualatin, Oregon, holds the West Coast Giant Pumpkin Regatta, while Windsor, Nova Scotia, has the Windsor Pumpkin Regatta, and other cities have added their own.
Charming, isn't it?
You've probably heard of snake charming before, but what can you do if you're afraid of snakes? They can be deadly, after all. Well, luckily someone came up with worm charming. Charming, sometimes called grunting, is the process of enticing earthworms to the surface. Traditionally this is just to find bait for fishing, but if you're good at something you want to show off, and thus a competition was born. A 10-year-old currently holds the world record after charming 567 worms in 2009.
Keep rollin', rollin', rollin'
Logrolling is a lot like sumo wrestling, if both wrestlers just had to stand on a log in a lake the whole time. OK, maybe it's not like sumo wrestling. But the competition is still a one-on-one battle of skill in which each competitor tries to unseat the other from a floating log. The skill part comes in just how you unseat your opponent, spinning the log beneath your feet while maintaining your balance.
"Pacific Rim" gets small
They call it "Kaiju Big Battel," and it's as great as the name suggests. "Battel" is no typo, it's just another quirk of this sport which is essentially WWE-style wrestling meets Japanese monster movies at an auditorium near you. Competitors dress up like kaiju — Japanese monsters, like the old-school Godzilla — and battle it out in a ring complete with a tiny, fake cityscape to be crushed under their monstrous feet. Yes, it's 110% goofy, but that's the best part.
It's not just a hobby
Equestrian games are quite old and have been a part of the Summer Olympics for years. But is it an accessible sport? Can everyone just grab a horse and ride? Of course not. That's why hobby horsing exists. It's much the same as dressage and other equestrian events, only you get to use one of those weird little horse heads on a stick instead of a real horse. The competition is much maligned for obvious reasons, but people do take it very seriously, and literally thousands of people compete in it every single year.
No time for napping here
Everyone's probably experienced at least one pillow fight in their lives, so it's kind of weird to think it took so long for someone to try to make a sport of it. The Pillow Fight League started in 2004 in Canada at a goth bar in Toronto. From there it expanded, and competitions began cropping up in Montreal and New York City. The rules are as simple as you might imagine — beat your opponent with a pillow. It's a women-only competition, no eye-gouging or low-blows, and you win by pinfall, surrender or judge's decision.
How cheesy is this?
Informally this is called cheese-rolling, but more formally it's known as the Cooper's Hill Cheese-Rolling and Wake, and it's been around since the early 1800s. The point of the competition is simple. A giant wheel of cheese is tossed down a very steep hill, and a large group of people chases after it. The winner is whoever gets the cheese. The prize? That wheel of cheese. Winners have come from all over the world.
They call it Kaninhop or, less hard to remember, rabbit show jumping. It's like one of those horse jumping competitions or a dog agility show where your pet has to run an obstacle course, only it's bunnies instead of horses and dogs, and therefore about 1,000 times as cute. The competition started in Sweden in the '70s, and now competitions take place in Norway, Germany, the United States and other countries.
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