Top 10 Weirdest Competitions You Didn't Know Existed

Script written by Michael Wynands.

There are a lot of unusual sports and obscure sports competitions around the world. Think you could compete at toe wrestling? How about tickling competitions? Why not try your hand at extreme ironing? WatchMojo counts down ten of the most bizarre sporting contests you’ve never heard of.

Special thanks to our user Muppet_Face for suggesting this idea! Check out the voting page at WatchMojo.comsuggest/Top%2010%20Weird%20Competitions%20You%20Didn't%20Know%20Existed

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Script written by Michael Wynands.

Top 10 Weirdest Competitions You Didn't Know Existed


If you can dream it up… somewhere in the world people are already competing at it. Welcome to WatchMojo.com, and today we’re counting down our picks for the Top 10 Weird Competitions You Didn’t Know Existed.

For this list, we’re at looking some of the oddest, most obscure formal competitions that people actually participate in.

#10: Wife-Carrying Competitions

Invented in Finland, where it’s known as Eukonkanto, the practice of wife-carrying has a bit of a dark, and admittedly muddled history. Apparently, a thief named Herkko Rosvo-Ronkainen and his fellow thieves would either steal wives from villages and carry them away, or train to carry stolen goods on their backs using either hefty sacks or wives. Either way, modern wife-carrying is a wacky and consensual activity for male and female two-person teams who, by the way, don’t actually need to be married. With the female partner holding on to the male partner’s back in various positions, the team navigates a complex obstacle course. It looks odd… and genuinely challenging.

#9: International Birdman

Ahh…. to be a bird. For well... nearly forever, humankind has envied its winged friends for their ability to soar through the sky. And while we may have gotten manned air balloons in 1783 and the first successful airplane flight in 1903, it’s not really the same, is it? Well, allow us to introduce you to the birdman competition, held in England, which involves a more Icarus-inspired approach to flight. Divided into three classes – Condor, Leonardo Da Vinci, and Kingfisher – people compete with serious hand gliders, wacky homemade flying machines and, in the “fancy dress” Kingfisher class, downright outrageous outfits. Although the goal is distance… only the Condor class ever goes very far.

#8: Toe Wrestling

What’s a nation lacking in world champion athletes to do? Why, invent an intentionally obscure sport to excel at of course! At least, that was the reported thinking of the group of U.K. friends who invented toe wrestling over a few pints one day. So… what does it entail? Well, combining elements of arm wrestling and thumb wrestling, and applying them to feet, toe wrestling sees two contestants lock toes in an attempt to pin the other’s foot. The competition takes place in the small village of Fenney Bentley every year, and it would seem the plan worked, as Brits typically dominate the um… sport?

#7: Shin Kicking Championship

A kick to the shin is incredibly painful. In fact, in self-defence, it’s one of the sensitive areas you’re instructed to target on your attacker. So why would anyone willingly submit themselves to such pain? While it may be hard to understand for some people, the shin kicking championships continue to attract spectators and competitors each year, as part of the Cotswold Olimpicks near Chipping Campden, England. The competition can be traced back all the way back to the early 17th century. Since then, some mild safety regulations have been implemented - competitors must stuff their pants with straw padding and wear soft shoes. Then… kick until someone submits or falls.

#6: Extreme Ironing World Championships

Ironing isn’t exactly the most thrilling of chores. In fact, it can be downright boring. But it doesn’t have to be! There are people out there ironing in ways so badass, the activity can only be described as an “extreme sport”. When practicing extreme ironing outside of the competition, it’s simply about finding the most challenging setting in which to get the job done, and seeing how well you can iron. In the context of the world championships however, contestants are made to iron in a variety of extreme settings, often on alternative surfaces, and are judged on both the quality of the ironed garment and the creativity of their techniques.

#5: Ostrich Racing

Sure, when it comes to riding animals, horses have long been the go-to choice, but they aren’t the only species humans have ridden. Alright... buffalo riding isn’t all that common, but in South Africa, ostrich racing is. Although not great as a mode of transportation, these massive birds, which can typically run up to 43 MPH, can still move fast, even with a human on board. In addition to competitions in South Africa, ostrich races are regularly held in Chandler, Arizona. Much like in horse racing, the jockeys are usually smaller, lightweight individuals. Unlike horse racing however... the jockeys fall off their two-legged mounts quite regularly.

#4: Tickling Competitions

What fun! Many of these odd competitive activities admittedly involve a significant amount of potential pain or risk. But this sounds like a blast! At least… on the surface. In practice, tickling competitions are rather intense, somewhat controversial, and depending on who you ask, potentially exploitative. As explored in the 2016 documentary “Tickled,” the L.A.-based competition is more than it seems. Described as “competitive endurance tickling,” the competition, as revealed in the film, allegedly paid its participants, then filmed them as they were restrained and tickled by men straddling them. According to some, they were even misled as to what they were signing up for.

#3: Cockroach Racing

Oh, did you think ostrich racing was odd? Well, you ain’t seen nothin’ yet. Cockroaches aren’t exactly the most well liked species on the planet, and have largely come to be associated with absolute filth and well... being able to survive a nuclear disaster. So here’s something positive about them to balance the scales - people race the little creeps! Started in 1982 in Brisbane, Australia, this novel competition is actually a form of gambling, with people betting on their roach, much like they would at an equestrian racetrack. Winning bugs even make it into a hall of fame! The practice has since caught on around the globe, albeit in small circles.

#2: Air Guitar Championships

For most, air guitar is nothing more the result of being overwhelmed by the awesomeness of a song. In the world of competitive air guitar however, it’s all about cutting loose and embracing the imaginary instrument in your hands. For members of this international community, it’s genuine performance, a skill that needs to be practiced and perfected. National competitions are held around the world in at least 10 countries as part of the Official Air Guitar World Championships Network. The world championships themselves are held in Oulu, Finland, and only the finest air guitarists make the cut. The rules stipulate that whether electric or acoustic, the guitar MUST be made of air.

Before we unveil our top pick, here are a few honorable mentions:
- World’s Ugliest Dog Contest
- Baby Crying Contest
- Shovel Racing

#1: Air Sex World Championships

If you’re among the people who feel that participating in an air guitar competition sounds like an absolute nightmare of embarrassment… we can’t WAIT to talk to you about competitive air sex. Instead of playing an invisible guitar, you’re having sex with an invisible person or people on-stage. The more passionate, creative and skilled you are in your faux-sex, the better. Invented in Japan in 2006 by one J-Taro Sugisaku, this competitive performance keeps the genitals covered, leaving everything to the imagination of both performer and audience. Set to music, the performances are truly unforgettable, but really need to be seen to be believed.
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