We’re all familiar with many of the world’s most popular sports: football, soccer, baseball, basketball, hockey, and so on. But what about some of the more unusual sports and pastimes out there?
Whether you’re looking for an out-of-the-box way to keep fit or just fancy trying an unusual new hobby, here are a few of our favorite sports that you’ve probably never heard of.
Image source: Chessboxing Wikipedia
Chess boxing is exactly what it sounds like: a combination of boxing and the strategy board game of chess. The two opponents play alternating rounds of blitz chess (also known as speed chess) and boxing.
The winner is the first person to achieve either a checkmate or a knockout. It is also possible to win on points from the boxing portion of the game or if your opponent chooses to withdraw from the chess portion.
This might sound like an incredibly niche combination of sports, but chess boxing is popular enough that it has two global governing bodies: the World Chessboxing Association (WCBA) and the World Chess Boxing Organization (WCBO).
Image source: Zorbing Wikipedia
Not one for the faint of heart, Zorbing is a sport that involves rolling down a hillside in a huge inflatable plastic ball. Depending on the steepness of the incline, it’s possible to reach speeds of up to 30 miles per hour.
Invented in New Zealand and now popular across the world, Zorbing is hilarious and terrifying in equal measure. According to the professionals, it’s also less stomach-churning than it sounds, with dizziness and queasiness being rare. Even so, those who suffer from severe motion sickness may want to give this one a miss.
There’s also Aqua Zorbing (pictured in the header image for this post!) in which around 30 liters of water are inside the Zorbing ball with you.
You can try Zorbing or Aqua Zorbing at many dedicated facilities across the US and the world.
Image source: NBC News
Wife carrying originated in Finland, where it is known as Eukonkanto, and competitions have taken place in many countries including the US, the UK, Germany, and Australia.
In this sport, male competitors race while carrying a female teammate through an obstacle course. The woman being carried does not actually have to be the competitor’s wife, despite the sport’s name. The only stipulation is that she must be at least 17 years old and weigh at least 49kg (108lb.)
Wife carrying is an irreverent sport, with rules including “all participants must enjoy themselves.” The Wife Carrying World Championships are held in Sonkajärvi, Finland each year. The first prize is the wife’s weight in beer, and additional prizes can be awarded for the strongest carrier, most entertaining couple, and best costume.
Image source: AVClub
Extreme ironing is a tongue-in-cheek activity in which people iron items of clothing in unusual or remote locations.
The Extreme Ironing Bureau (yes, that exists) defines extreme ironing as "the latest danger sport that combines the thrills of an extreme outdoor activity with the satisfaction of a well-pressed shirt."
Invented in 1980 in Yorkshire in the UK, this activity gained more attention after a 2003 TV documentary. Just some of the interesting and terrifying places enthusiasts have ironed include the middle of the M1 motorway, at a depth of 42m underwater in the world’s deepest pool, and on top of New Zealand’s Mount Ruapehu.
Underwater Hockey AKA Octopush
Image source: Underwater Hockey Wikipedia
Octopush (also known as Underwater Hockey) was invented in the 1950s by a team of divers who wanted a more fun way to stay fit than just swimming laps. In this underwater variation on hockey, players wear a mask, snorkel, fins, and a water polo hat and carry a small stick.
Just as in regular hockey, each team’s objective is to score points by pushing the puck into the opposing team’s goal. Octopush is traditionally played in 25m swimming pools.
The challenge with Octopush is that participants must breathe through their snorkels in between doing battle with their opponents underwater. Some of the best players are those who have mastered holding their breath for a long time.
Image source: Sport and Recreation Alliance
Korfball was invented in 1902 by a Dutch school teacher from Amsterdam and based on the Swedish game of ringboll. It is immensely popular in the Netherlands, with over 90,000 participants, and is also popular in Belgium and Taiwan, amongst other countries.
Korfball is played in teams of 8, with 4 men and 4 women on each team. With similarities to basketball and netball, the goal is to throw the ball into an 11.5’ high basket. Blocking, tackling, holding, and kicking the ball are forbidden.
An international korfball match usually lasts 25 minutes, though there are several variations that are used in different competitions.