Everyone loves a good competition, but, needless to say, some are more standard than others. Competitions around the world range from the Olympic level to the downright bizarre. Some contests honor centuries-old traditions, while others are just created for fun. So with that said, we thought we'd turn our attention to some of the more unusual competitions that take place around the globe. So, continue scrolling for some of the weirdest, wackiest, and most delightful contests we've stumbled across.
17th Street High Heel Race in the USA
The 17th street high-heel race in Washington, DC, USA, is an annual footrace where participants must cross the finish line wearing high heels. Participants typically dress up in drag. The race is part of the 'High Heel Race Series,' founded in Washington, DC, in 1986. It began as a wager among friends and drag queens to see who could make it to the end of 17th street in the Dupont district of Washington.
This competition is usually held during Pride Week (just before Halloween). The current record for the fastest high heel race was set in 2019 and stands at a time of 15 minutes, 19 seconds. That's pretty impressive, right?!
Amateur Chessboxing World Championship
As its name so wonderfully suggests, chessboxing is a hybrid sport that combines the physical exercise of boxing with the mental acuity of chess. It's a full-contact sport where opponents alternate between rounds of chess and boxing. The bout consists of up to 11 rounds: six of chess and five of boxing. The winner is determined by a checkmate in chess, a technical knockout in boxing, or a judge's decision.
Interestingly, the term 'chessboxing' originated from a 1979 martial arts movie and grew from there. While the first official chessboxing event took place in London, it's now spread worldwide, with the biggest competitions taking place in Los Angeles.
The World Championships of Underwater Hockey
If you've never heard of underwater hockey, it's a sport played in a swimming pool by two teams of six players who wear masks, snorkels, and fins. It began in England in 1954 and has since become a worldwide event orchestrated by the World Underwater Federation CMAS. The game's object is to use a stick (pusher) to push a puck across the bottom of the swimming pool and into the opposing team's goal.
The game is played with a puck slightly heavier than a hockey puck, and the sticks are longer than traditional hockey sticks. Underwater hockey can be fast-paced and exciting and a great way to keep fit while having fun - win-win!
El Colacho in Spain
The baby jumping competition, or El Colacho (the devil jump), is a traditional Spanish festival that dates back to 1620. It's held annually in the small village of Castrillo de Murcia. During the festival, infants born that year are placed on a mattress in the street, and men dressed as the devil, or "Colacho," jump over them. The tradition is said to cleanse the babies of original sin and protect them from evil spirits.
Astonishingly, the babies in this photo don't look alarmed. In fact, some of them seem to be smiling! We must admit that if we saw a man in a brightly colored costume trying to leap over us, we might seem slightly more concerned!
The Worldwide Beard and Mustache Championship
The World Beard and Mustache Championship is an international competition celebrating some of the most impressive facial hair to grace the globe. Participants can compete across 18 categories, ranging from the natural full beard and mustache to freestyle designs. Competitors from all over the planet come together to share their impressive facial hair and go head to head for the title of "World's Best Beard" or "World's Best Mustache." The history of the World Beard and Mustache Championship is up for debate.
Some argue it began in the 1970s in Italy. In contrast, others claim it started in a small village in Germany during the 90s. Regardless, these competitions are now held in various locations worldwide.
British Toe Wrestling
The Ashbourne World Toe-Wrestling Championship is an annual event held in Derbyshire, England. It's a unique sport where competitors lock their feet and attempt to pin their opponent's foot down in a best-of-three-rounds match. It's considered a common courtesy for players to remove the other's shoes and socks. While unusual, the event was first held in 1976 and has become an increasingly popular tourist attraction, attracting competitors from all over the world.
Apparently, its originator George Burgess invented the sport because he wanted England to be the world champions in at least one sport. But, ironically, a visiting Canadian actually won the inaugural event!
Australia's Tunarama Festival
The Aussie tuna toss is part of an annual event held in Port Lincoln, South Australia, called Tunarama. It involves competitors throwing a ten-kilogram rubber tuna as far as possible. The current men's world record is held by Common Wealth Gold Medalist Sean Carlin, who threw the tuna a staggering 37.23m in 1989. For women, the record is held by Brooke Krueger at 21.25m. Pretty impressive, right? The Tunarama festival also features a variety of other tuna-related activities and competitions.
For example, there's the tuna catch, a tuna race, and the tuna weigh-in. The event has been held since 1962 and continues to be a popular and highly competitive affair.
Cooper’s Hill Cheese-Rolling and Wake, The UK
The UK cheese rolling festival, also known as Cooper's Hill Cheese Rolling and Wake, is an annual event held on the Spring Bank Holiday at Cooper's Hill near Gloucester, England. The festival involves rolling a round of Double Gloucester cheese down a steep 180m hill and then running after it. Participants compete to see who can reach the bottom of the hill first and catch the cheese. The event has been celebrated since the early 19th century.
Anyone can sign up. We won't lie this competition seems pretty fun; out of all the contests we've listed here, we reckon this is the one we'd most likely participate in!
The Flaming Barrel Race - UK
The tar barrel race pictured here is a traditional sport that originated in Devon, England, and is still popular in the region today. It involves competitors running a pre-determined course with a burning tar-soaked barrel hoisted over their shoulders. The first competitor to cross the finish line with the barrel still burning is declared the winner. The race is often held as part of a larger festival, with prizes awarded to the fastest competitors.
The origins of this fiery tradition go all the way back to the 1600s, coinciding with Guy Fawkes Night, an annual commemoration celebrated in the UK on the 5th of November.
Bee Bearding in China
If you're scared of bees, look away now! This bee bearding contest in China is an annual event that sees beekeepers attempting to cover their bodies with as many honeybees as possible. The event usually takes place in Shaoyang in the Hunan province of China. It's said to be a way of demonstrating the beekeeper's skill and bravery. The contest's winner is the one who can endure the thickest swarm of bees crawling over them.
Although the competition doesn't usually accrue many participants, in 2011, a 42-year-old beekeeper armed with only a pair of goggles and shorts managed to attract more than 26 kg of bees to his body.
The US Rock, Paper, Scissors League
If you thought that the classic game: rock, paper, scissors, was just a convenient tiebreaker or a means to pass the time, then think again. In fact, the Rock Paper Scissors League is a global organization of competitive rock-paper-scissors players. It was founded in 2006 in Las Vegas, USA, and has hosted local and international tournaments and events. The league awards prize money (in some instances, as much as $50,000!) and recognition to the winners.
Contrary to popular opinion the outcome of a rock, paper, scissors game doesn't just come down to luck. Instead, experts say there are plenty of strategies, psychology, and statistics to delve into that increase the likelihood of a win!
The Bubble Baba Challenge in Russia
The Bubble Baba Challenge is an event held in the rapids of the Vuoksi River in Russia, whereby contestants race in the water using sex dolls as flotation devices. It began in 2003 as a joke between a few friends. After that, it was staged yearly until a ban was enacted in 2012. However, the popularity of this competition continued, and in 2021, the Bubble Buba challenge was reborn as part of the newly revived Vuoksa water festival.
The restored event saw dozens of racers cycling with their inflatables across St Petersburg to brave the waters, which some participants have dubbed the "highlight of the summer." Interestingly, participants have to pass an alcohol test to enter.
Air Guitar Championship - The US and Finland
The US Air Guitar Championships are an annual event, with international championships hosted in Finland. As you've probably already gathered, this unique competition celebrates the art of air guitar playing (heavy metal style). The event has been held annually since 1996 and is open to anyone of any age or gender. Air guitarists come from all over the United States and compete against one another for the title of national champion.
The winner of which goes on to compete in the World Championships in Oulu, Finland. The event is judged by a panel of celebrity judges who base their decisions on technical ability, mimicry skills, stage presence, and overall "Airness."
The Sauna Endurance Championship in Finland
The World Sauna Championships are an annual event held in Heinola, Finland, since 1999. It's an endurance contest where competitors must sit in a sauna heated to 110°C (230°F) for as long as possible, with the last person remaining being declared the winner. The contestants must sit in a straight position, without their hands or forearms touching the surface. Contestants are monitored by a doctor. However, despite these efforts, a participant died in 2010.
Since this tragedy, there hasn't been another World Sauna Championship. The competition was described as one of the most extreme in the world, and from what we've heard, we can well believe it!
World Pancake Racing Championships, The UK
Pancake Day Races are an annual event held on Shrove Tuesday (also known as Pancake Day) in many towns across the United Kingdom and parts of the United States. Participants must flip a cooked pancake in a frying pan while running a short race. During this time, the pancake must be flipped a certain number of times. Or depending on the rules of the race, contestants will score points for each flip.
The winner is usually whoever finishes first. Interestingly, the Pancake Day Races are a traditional event traced back to 1445. The World Pancake Racing Championships are held in Exeter, The UK.
World Championship Cow Chip Throwing Contest, Beaver, Oklahoma
The World Championship Cow Chip Throwing Contest is an annual event that's been held since 1970 in Beaver, Oklahoma - a town where cows reportedly outnumber people by 16 to one! It's a unique competition that involves throwing dried cow pies (also known as cow chips) as far as possible. Participants compete in three categories: Men's Open, Women's Open, and Co-ed Open. The winner in each category receives a cash prize, a belt buckle, and the title of World Champion Cow Chip Thrower.
The World Championship Cow Chip Throwing Contest is held over the course of two days and includes a parade, a carnival, and dozens of vendors as part of the festivities.
The Jungle Marathon in Brazil
The Amazon Jungle Marathon is a grueling multi-day ultramarathon race that takes place in the rainforest of Brazil. It's considered the toughest footrace in the world. It's a 26-mile (42km) course winding through the Amazon jungle. It features tricky terrain to traverse (swamps and hills) in an extremely hot and humid climate. Racers must battle their way through the jungle, potentially encountering anything from jaguars and monkeys to poisonous snakes and insects.
Participants must carry their own food, water, and supplies and navigate the course independently. The race is held annually and draws some of the world's toughest and most adventurous athletes.
The Bog Snorkeling Championship in the UK
The World Bog Snorkelling Championships is an annual event held in Waen Rhydd Peat Bog, near Llanwrtyd Wells, Wales. During the event, competitors race through a 60-meter, waist-deep peat bog, wearing snorkeling gear. The winner is the fastest snorkel to cross the finish line. The event was first held in 1985 and has since grown in popularity, with competitors from across the globe. The competition also has a fancy dress section.
Here those who prefer style over speed can brandish a costume while traversing the muddy waters. Fashion highlights from over the years include a pantomime horse, a lobster, a bee, and even spiderman.
Cockroach Racing in Australia
Aye, you heard correctly, it sounds pretty gross, right? Starting in Australia in 1982, each year there's an annual cockroach race, held on Australia day. For the uninitiated, cockroach racing involves participants placing live cockroaches in an arena (which usually boasts a circular track) and having them, yes, you guessed it, racing each other. The winning cockroach is typically the one that crosses the finish line or reaches the designated spot first.
Cockroach racing is usually done for entertainment or betting purposes. Unsurprisingly, cockroach racing is often seen as a quirky, humorous sport. Its popularity has spread elsewhere; for example, in the US, a cockroach race is held once every four years before election day by the Pest Control Association of New Jersey.
The Dakar Rally in Senegal
The Dakar Rally in Senegal is an annual off-road endurance motor race open to amateurs and professional racers alike. It's considered one of the world's most challenging and dangerous races, as competitors traverse hundreds of miles of unforgiving terrain. To give you a feel for just how treacherous the race is, sadly, as many as 50 participants have died over the years! The race usually takes place in January and consists of a combination of rallies of varying lengths.
The inspiration behind the first rally was to imitate what happened to Thierry Sabine, who in 1977 got lost in the Libyan Desert. The rally's exact route changes from year to year.
The World Bodypainting Festival and Championship in Austria
The World Bodypainting Festival and Championship is an annual event held in Austria that, as you've probably already guessed, heralds the skill of body painting. It's the largest event of its kind, drawing thousands of people worldwide. The festival features live body painting demonstrations, competitions, art exhibitions, fashion shows, music, and dance performances. Unsurprisingly, it's also an excellent platform for artists to showcase their work and educate others about their craft.
The championship side of things requires participants to adhere to the festival's theme (which changes each year). They have three days to compete, and various awards are given for different competition categories, such as special effects makeup, face painting, and more.
World Worm-Charming Championships, The UK
The World Worm Charming Championships is an annual event held in England. Participants compete to see who can catch the most worms in a certain amount of time. The event originated in 1980 and has been held every year since then. The event is run by the Friends of Willaston School Association and is attended by competitors from all over the world. The competition involves teams of three using a garden fork.
They vibrate the fork in the soil to attract worms and then collect them in a specially designed container. The winner is the group who catches the most worms in the allotted time.
Santa Claus World Championships in Switzerland
Switzerland's annual Santa Claus world championship, known as ClauWau, is a two-day annual event that takes place in the Samnaun mountains - a remote Swiss village on the border of Austria and Italy. It's here where Santas from all over the world compete in events to see who is the best at being Santa. The competition was first held in 2001 and even featured in the opening of the 2021 winter Olympics
Teams of four Santas fight against each other in tests of physical endurance, snow mobility, and Santa-ing skills. It's a highly competitive but very inclusive sporting event. Best of all, entry is free!
Wife Carrying World Championships in Finland, Estonia, and the US
The Wife Carrying Championship is an annual event that takes place in Finland, Estonia, and the United States. In this event, husbands attempt to complete an obstacle course while carrying their wives. Participants can carry their wives either piggyback style, over the shoulder or Estonian style - where her legs hang over the shoulder. The winner is the couple that completes the course in the fastest time. The prize? The wife's weight in beer!
The event's roots are a bit dark. The race is based on an old Finnish legend that involves a man stealing his neighbor's wife and running away with her in the late 1800s!
Extreme Ironing in the UK
Yes, you read that correctly. Extreme ironing began in 1997 in Leicester, England, when a guy called Phil Shaw, nicknamed "steam," wanted to make his chores more interesting. If you've never heard of extreme ironing before, it's an intense sport where participants take their irons to remote and challenging locations to do their laundry. It combines the danger and excitement of extreme sports with the satisfaction of a well-pressed shirt.
People who participate in extreme ironing usually take pictures of themselves ironing in the most unusual places (like the one pictured here!). For instance, on top of mountains, underwater, or even in midair.
Pumpkin Throwing in the US
Pumpkin throwing at the World Championship Punkin Chunkin is an annual event where people compete to see who can launch a pumpkin the farthest using various mechanical devices. The event started in 1986 in Delaware and has since become a popular tradition in the United States. Teams typically use a variety of machines, such as trebuchets, catapults, pneumatic cannons, centrifugal machines, and even human-powered machines, to launch pumpkins as far as possible.
The current record stands at over 46,00 feet in 2013. The participant used an air cannon against 20mph wind. Over 20,000 onlookers witnessed the event. Fun fact: Punkin Chunkin sponsors charitable causes and works to donate proceeds to the local community.
Cell Pone Throwing In Finland
Since 2000, this comical sport has been brought to us from the Finnish town of Savonlinna. The event was initially designed to raise awareness surrounding the recycling of old mobiles. There are four categories, including the classic shoulder throw, freestyle, team, and juniors. But generally, the overarching rule is that participants attempt to throw a mobile phone as far as possible. This international sport has even been featured in the Guinness Book of World Records.
The record for the longest throw was set in Belgium in 2014 at over 110 meters. Competitors often use specially-designed lightweight and aerodynamic phones made from durable materials such as plastic and rubber.
Nailympia (The Nail Olympics) in the US, the UK, Mexico, and Germany
Nailympia is an international nail competition that occurs every year in different cities worldwide. It challenges professional nail artists to create unique nail art designs for the models. The competition is divided into categories, including 3D nail art, fantasy nail art, and salon art. Prizes are awarded for the best creations. Nailympia also offers educational seminars and workshops to help nail technicians hone their skills and stay up-to-date with the latest trends.
The first event began in 2001 in Las Vegas. The aim was to provide an unbiased and fair environment for participants wanting to showcase their skills and creativity. There are now Nailympia events in Orlando, London, Mexico, and Germany.
The World Gurning Championships in the UK
The World Gurning Championships are an annual event held in the English town of Egremont, where competitors from around the world compete to make the ugliest face possible. Gurning is an old English tradition where a person would contort their face into a monstrous shape for comedic effect. The Championship typically takes place alongside the Egremont Crab Fair, a centuries-old celebration that allegedly dates as far back as 1267. It's an event full of music, dance, food, and fun.
Competitors must place a horse collar around their heads and then pull their faces through the opening to make the most unattractive face imaginable. The winner is the person who can contort their face most creatively and grotesquely and is crowned the World Gurning Champion.
The Swamp Soccer World Championship Brought to Us From Finland
The Swamp Soccer World Championships is an annual international soccer tournament originating from Hyrynsalmi in Finland. The match occurs in the middle of a marshy bog, with the water reaching up to the players' waists. The game's objective is the same as regular soccer, but the mud and water add an extra level of difficulty and endurance. The tournament comprises teams from around the world and is open to all ages.
The Swamp Soccer World Championships have been held every year since 2000. Interestingly, training in swamps has been something Finnish skiers have traditionally done for years to boost their endurance.
The World Egg Throwing Championships in England
The World Egg Throwing Championships is an annual event held in the small village of Swaton, Lincolnshire, England, to celebrate the 600-year-old tradition of throwing eggs. This funny and peculiar sport is thought to originate from old pagan folklore, where throwing eggs marked the beginning of spring. Participants compete in various categories, such as Longest Throw, Highest Throw, and even Freestyle Egg Throwing. The World Egg Throwing Championships has been held every year since 2005
The event attracts thousands of competitors and spectators from all over the world. While at the championships, participants can join in other festivities, including a vintage car show and other egg-based activities.
The International Cherry Pit-Spitting Championship in the US
The International Cherry Pit Spitting Championship is an annual event that anyone can participate in. It's occurred every July (marking the start of the tart cherry harvest season) since the 1970s on the Eau Claire farm in Michigan. Aptly named, participants compete to see who can spit a cherry pit the farthest distance. According to the Guinness book of records, the current record holder is Brian "Young Gun" Krause, with a 93.6-foot spit.
There are a few rules contestants must adhere to. For example, you can't hold anything in your mouth that could aid the spitting, and you have to spit the pit of a Montmorency cherry chilled between 55 and 60° F.
The Carnival of Ivre in Italy
The Carnival of Ivrea, also known as the orange battle, is an annual event held in the Italian city of Ivrea. It's a celebration of the overthrow of a tyrannical ruler, believed to have occurred in the 12th century. The festival includes a variety of parades, traditional events, and rituals. One of the main features of the carnival is the Battle of the Oranges, where teams of people throw oranges at each other.
This symbolizes the battle between the people of Ivrea and the tyrant's soldiers. It's not uncommon for participants to get creative with their armor. Unsurprisingly, the Carnival of Ivrea is the largest organized food fight in Italy.
The World Pea Shooting Championship in the UK
The World Pea Shooting Championships are an annual sporting event held in Witcham, England. Here competitors from all over the world compete to see who can best shoot a pea at a target using a pea shooter. The event was first held in 1971 and has become increasingly popular, with some competitors traveling from as far afield as New Zealand to participate. Each player gets a maximum of five shots.
Participants earn points by hitting the center of the target. The rules allow people to bring their own shooters, with some competitors even adding laser technology to improve accuracy - suffice it to say; people take this competition seriously!
International Beauty Industry Awards - Hosted Online
Unlike the other competitions we have listed here, the International Beauty Industry Awards is hosted entirely online to ensure that anyone can participate, regardless of location. It is also free to enter. There are as many as 50 categories that hair and makeup lovers can partake in, ranging from everyday makeup to avant-garde. Needless to say, this presents the perfect platform for those looking to experiment and showcase their out-of-this-world designs.
It is not uncommon for entrants to use silicon-based synthetic skins to produce glamorous and somewhat creepy-looking aesthetics. Contestants are judged by an 'Independent Judging Council' comprising leaders in the beauty industry.
World Stone Skimming Championship in Scotland
Did you enjoy going to your local lake or river as a kid and trying to skim stones? You might have spent a while trying to find the perfect stone to throw or hours trying to break your high score, which probably wasn't more than two or three. The point is skimming stones is pretty fun. But did you know that there's now serious competition for skimming stones?
The World Stone Skimming Championship is held in Scotland each year. Like some of the other contests we've listed, it started life as a joke between a couple of friends and then grew into a more organized event.
The Sri Chinmoy Self-Transcendence Race in The US
This race lasts a staggering 52 days, during which the entrant has to cover 3,100 miles. This equates to roughly 59.6 miles a day! As you may have already guessed, it's the longest race held on the planet! Every day the race re-starts at 6 am in the morning and often continues until midnight. Unlike most traditional races, this one incorporates a spiritual element. I.e., participants are supposed to cleanse their souls of their desires and self.
Fear not; entrants are permitted to take long pauses throughout the day whenever they need them. The Sri Chinmoy Self-Transcendence Race is held in Queens, New York, in the US, from June to August.
Cotswold Olimpick Games in England
As you may have already guessed, the Cotswold Olimpick Games takes place in the Cotswold in England. The roots of this event extend over four centuries. These include several games (some of which we'd never heard of) like King of the Hill, Championship of the Hill, and Shin Kicking World Championships. The latter sounds painful! However, there were a few activities we had come across, for example, Tug O’ War and, of course, the more traditional running races.
Sadly, as the Cotswold Olimpick Games is a community event it relies solely on community-raised funds. So, unfortunately, there have been years when the games couldn't commence due to a lack of money.