A Tour Of The World’s Most Unusual Sports & Where In The World To Watch Them

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The world is a gloriously diverse place, that’s for sure, and one of the more entertaining ways that you can experience the richness of global cultures is by watching some of its more singular, silly and downright off-centre sports. 

If you’re looking to precision plan a holiday with a difference, one that takes in spectacles of both tradition and hilarity, as people revel in the sheer entertainment of competition for competition’s sake, then you’ve come to the right place for inspiration; here’s a tour of some of the world’s most unusual sports, and where in the world to watch them. 

Lucha Libre

Photo by Claudia Raya on Unsplash

We Brits love combat sports – boxing is one of the UK’s most popular sports and that’s not even mentioning events like MMA or wrestling. However, we don’t have anything quite like Mexico’s Lucha Libre. Though with bookmakers continually broadening coverage of sports and events, who knows what the future holds? Perhaps you might even find out on sports betting sites down the line.

Much akin to the WWE, Lucha Libre is as much a sport as an enthralling display of amateur dramatics. Fighters wear elaborate masks to conceal their identity during the wrestling match, with the audience thriving on the tequila-fuelled spectacle of dramatic anonymity. Losers are often subjected to the ignoble penalty of revealing their faces to the crowd, and even go as far as shaving their heads. No sport has quite the same supercharged atmosphere as a Lucha Libre fight, and it has to be seen in person to be believed.

Photo by Larry Costales on Unsplash

Where in the world to watch Lucha Libre: Arena México in Mexico City is the cathedral of Lucha Libre. This iconic venue is the most important stage for Mexican wrestling, where the vibrant atmosphere and the passionate fans make the experience unforgettable. The grandeur of the arena and the high-flying acrobatics of the luchadores are best witnessed here, where the sport has been thrilling audiences since 1956.

Cheese Rolling

Perhaps one of the more well-known events on this list, the cheese rolling race is held annually on Cooper’s Hill near Gloucester. It’s a hilarious spectacle and audiences pack the slope to watch in amazement as hundreds of participants hurtle down a very steep and hummocky hill in pursuit of nothing other than a wheel of Double Gloucester cheese. The mammoth wheel can hit speeds up to 70 miles per hour and goes home with the winner of the race.

Despite the silliness of it all, this event has been a tradition in the UK for over 200 years, and if nothing else can be said of the race, you’ll certainly go home craving some cheese yourself!

Where in the world to watch cheese rolling: Cooper’s Hill in Gloucestershire is indeed the only place to truly experience the eccentricity of cheese rolling. This steep hill has been the traditional site for this quirky event for centuries. 

Kabaddi

Kabaddi is a sport that traces its roots back to the Indian subcontinent and has grown in popularity across Asia and beyond. It’s a contact team sport that requires both strength and agility, as well as a strategic mind. The game is played between two teams, with each team taking turns to send a ‘raider’ into the opposing team’s half, attempting to tag out as many of their players as possible and return to their own half, all in a single breath. The dynamic nature of Kabaddi, with its blend of tag and wrestling techniques, makes it a thrilling watch.

Where in the world to watch Kabaddi: The Sawai Mansingh Indoor Stadium in Jaipur, India, is the place to be for Kabaddi aficionados. As a host to many matches of the Pro Kabaddi League, the stadium is a hub of energy and excitement, with fans cheering on their favourite teams and players. The atmosphere is electric, with the fast-paced action on the mat mirrored by the passionate reactions of the crowd.

Lawn Mower Racing

It’s no surprise that lawn mower racing was coined first in Britain, and second, down the pub. This ingenious example of low-cost motor-racing is governed by a dedicated organisation – the British Lawn Mower Racing Association – and has a 30-race championship running throughout the finer months of the year. 

Lawnmower racing is a rural grassroots initiative that still dedicates all profits to charity. Audiences camp out in the spectacular British countryside with packed lunches and flasks of tea to watch a roaring group of salt-of-the-earth contenders rip across the field on souped-up lawnmowers. It’s certainly a contrast to the eye-watering extravaganzas of motor racing.

Where in the world to watch lawn mower racing: The Five Oaks Track near Billingshurst, West Sussex, is a prime location for lawn mower racing enthusiasts. This track is often used for the British Lawn Mower Racing Association’s championship races and provides a perfect rural setting for this unique motorsport. The community atmosphere and the roar of modified mowers make it a must-visit for fans of offbeat sports.

Wife Carrying

Wife carrying is a Finnish sport with an old and rather nefarious origin, legendarily dating to the days when gangs of robbers would raid Finnish villages and make off with other men’s wives.

These days, the prize is a little less dastardly, and participants compete for cases of beer to match their wife’s weight. With their wives held aloft, the men navigate a complicated assault course, clambering over wooden obstacles or wading through freezing muddy pools, while the wives assume some acrobatic positions to hasten their way. 

Where in the world to watch wife carrying: Sonkajärvi is the Finnish village that hosts the annual Wife Carrying World Championships. This small community comes alive with competitors and spectators from around the world, all eager to witness this unusual sport. The event is held at a local sports field, where the obstacle course is set up for the daring couples to navigate.

Read: Embracing the art of inner strength in the Finnish Lakeland

Bo-taoshi

For any fans of the chaotic free-for-all of Takeshi’s Castle, the Japanese sport Bo-taoshi is a must watch. At its core, it’s a massive game of capture the flag, in which two teams of 150 people each compete to bring down the other team’s wooden pole. 

The game is often played in schools or other institutions, and the teams break down to 75 attackers and 75 defenders. If that sounds like a recipe for disaster to you, you’re not alone! Anything and everything goes in Bo-taoshi. Players wrestle, kick, and punch in their valiant defences or reckless attacks, and injuries are part and parcel of the game. At least it doesn’t take very long – a draw is usually called within two minutes.

Where in the world to watch Bo-taoshi: The National Defense Academy of Japan in Yokosuka is one of the few places where you can witness the organised chaos of Bo-taoshi. This sport is a traditional event at the academy, where cadets participate in this intense and strategic game that is as much a test of teamwork as it is of individual strength and agility

Canal Jumping

Canal jumping, also known as fierljeppen, is a great example of how landscapes shape our culture and so our sports. This sport originated in the Netherlands, a country riddled with canals throughout the flat, rolling landscape. Once situated at the edge of a canal, players jump astride a pole and take a daring leap to see who can jump the widest canal.

The poles can reach up to 12.5m long and a huge part of the technique comes from how high jumpers can clamber up their precarious perch.

Where in the world to watch canal jumping: Fierljeppen Schansen in Friesland, the Netherlands, is the heartland of canal jumping. This region is known for its fierljeppen competitions, and the specially designed schansen (canal jumping facilities) provide the perfect setting for athletes to showcase their pole-vaulting skills across the waterways.

Sepak Takraw

Sepak Takraw is a sport that is akin to volleyball but with a twist – players use their feet, head, knees, and chest to touch the ball, making for some spectacular athletic displays. Originating in Southeast Asia, this sport is played with a small rattan ball and teams of three on each side of the net. The objective is to send the ball over the net into the opponent’s court without it touching the ground, using three touches or less. The sport is known for its gravity-defying kicks and agile manoeuvres.

Where in the world to watch Sepak Takraw: The Titiwangsa Stadium in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, is one of the best venues to experience the high-flying sport of Sepak Takraw. The stadium regularly hosts important regional tournaments and is a favourite among fans for its excellent facilities and the quality of the matches played there. The athleticism of the players is truly a sight to behold, as they leap and twist in the air to strike the ball with precision and power.

The Bottom Line

So, if your idea of a good time involves chasing dairy down a hill, leaping over canals with a pole, or carrying your spouse through an obstacle course (hey, isn’t married life always a little like this?) for the weight of her in beer, then pack your bags and your sense of adventure. These unusual sports aren’t just a test of skill—they’re a testament to the quirky side of human creativity, and a reminder that sometimes, the most memorable score is the number of laughs shared along the way.

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