April 20, 2012 / 1:12 PM / 7 years ago

Travel Picks: Top 10 wacky sports around the world

NEW YORK (Reuters) - All eyes will be on London this summer for the 2012 Olympic Games. But while waiting for the world’s elite athletes to take the stage, online travel adviser Cheapflights has come up with a top 10 list of no-frills, high-adrenaline and wacky sports which might be entertaining. Reuters has not endorsed this list:

A contestant climbs a greasy pole in an attempt to reach for prizes hung at the top during a game to celebrate Indonesia's independence day in Jakarta August 17, 2011. REUTERS/Supri

1. Camel Racing

Forget horse racing at Ascot. Camel racing in the United Arab Emirates is now the place to be seen. Popular throughout the Middle East as well as Mongolia and Australia, the sport takes place every year from late October to early April. In the dusty desert, camels race along a sand track up to 10 miles long while their owners drive alongside shouting and honking their horns to urge the camels forward. The louder the shouting, the faster they run. But be careful not to get in their way: anywhere from 15 to 70 camels race at a time and onlookers will want to avoid the stampede! Unlike horse racing, there’s no betting in camel racing, but, if the sport tickles your fancy, owning a winning camel can be a lucrative investment worth hundreds of thousands of dollars. The races usually take place on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays and, while the morning races tend to be reserved mostly for sheikhs, the afternoon races are open to all.

2. Tuna Tossing

The Tuna Tossing World Championship occurs annually at the Tunarama Festival in Port Lincoln, Australia. Men and women 16 years and older fight it out to toss their tuna the farthest, hoping to win a share of AU$3,000. Contestants can toss the 10 kg frozen tuna in any way they want, so twirl, throw, fling and chuck that tuna to victory. But be warned: the record for the longest tuna toss of all time stretches for an enormous 25 meters, so competition is fierce. For younger tossing hopefuls between the ages of five and 10, the Tunarama Festival also holds an annual prawn toss.

3. Greasy Pole Climbing

This messy and challenging sport is a crowd favorite in a number of corners of the world, including Indonesia, Brazil, the UK and the Caribbean. Depending on the local tradition, competitors try either to shimmy up a vertical pole laden in grease or to reach the end of a slickened horizontal pole without first splashing onto the sea. While grease-pole climbing made a one-time-only appearance in the 1904 Olympics, the biggest stage now for the sport is the Greasy Pole Competition, which takes place every year during St. Peter’s Fiesta in Gloucester, Massachusetts. Forty to 50 men aged between 18 and 60 test the slipperiness and attempt to be the first to reach the end of the pole and grab the red flag at the end. The pole is 45 feet long and can be anywhere from 10 to 25 feet from the sea at Gloucester Harbor. The pole is heavily greased with biodegradable axle grease and, to make it extra slippery, anything from Tabasco sauce to banana peels are added. Due to the popularity of the contest, there are strict rules regarding who is eligible to walk on the pole. The event is currently held on Friday, June 29, Saturday, June 30 and Sunday, July 1 - always at 4:45pm.

4. Cheese Rolling

If you’ve never heard of cheese rolling before, you might assume it’s a civilized event. Alas, cheese rolling is anything but civilized. It’s a bone-crushing race where people run, stumble and slide down a steep hill to catch massive rolls of cheese. The most famous event is Cooper’s Hill Cheese-Rolling and Wake, held in Gloucestershire, UK, where competitors vie with 8 lb Double Gloucester cheese rounds. The first person to grab the cheese wins and gets to take it home. Hundreds of participants, spectators and media flock to Gloucestershire from around the world for this unusual event.

5. Corn Hole

Basically a hipper version of horse shoes, Corn Hole became the new standard for tailgating, barbecues and all other styles of outdoors parties throughout the US after college students in the Midwest put it on the map. A one-handed sport, Corn Hole can be (and most often is) played without ever putting down your beer. However, true competitors in the sport, which is thought to be based on a game created by Native Americans, play in tournaments sanctioned by the American Corn Hole Association. There they vie in two-person or two-team matches, looking to rack up 21 points by landing more of their bean bags than their opponents’ on the raised board (1 point) or through the 6-inch-diameter hole at its center (3 points) from 27 feet away. Prize money has been creeping up over the years and now can be as high as $20,000.

6. Buzkashi

Literally translated, it means “goat grabbing.” As for how it’s played, well, imagine polo but with one slight modification. Both sports involve two opposing teams competing on horseback with the aim of maneuvering an object into the scoring area. The only difference is that in Buzkashi you use the carcass of a goat or calf instead of a ball. These days, a calf is used more often than a goat as the carcass of a calf is more durable. This is a fiercely competitive sport and definitely not for the faint of heart. For a chance to win, both the player and the horse must undergo long and strenuous training. The Afghan Olympic Federation has implemented official rules for Buzkashi, the national sport of Afghanistan.

7. Bun Climbing

The annual Cheung Chau Bun Festival is held on the eighth day of the fourth month in the Chinese calendar. Thousands of locals and tourists gather on the tiny fishing island of Cheung Chau in China to celebrate the festival and watch the bun climbing in amazement. The Bun Mountains are 60-foot-tall steel structures covered with delicious, decorative steamed buns and bamboo scaffolding. Men compete in a race to climb up the towers and grab as many buns as possible. The person with the most buns wins. This peculiar sport shouldn’t be taken lightly though, as potential bun climbers must take a training course to learn basic mountaineering skills. At the end of the training period, 12 finalists are chosen to compete in the bun climbing competition. For safety reasons, fake buns are now used to stop the possibility of climbers slipping.

8. Quidditch

Yes we mean the sport that Harry Potter and his friends played. “Muggles” now play it - well, except for the flying bit. Imagine instead people running astride broom sticks, working to get a ball through a hoop without getting smashed by an opponent aiming another ball at their heads, dodgeball style. Or chasing a gold-suited player darting around, carrying a sock stuffed with tennis balls that serve as the important “snitch” that must be captured to end the match. This low-flying version of the game started at Middlebury College in Vermont in 2005 and now plays out at more than 300 college and high school campuses across the US and 12 other countries. Statistics come from International Quidditch Association, Inc., which also hosts the annual World Cup and is considering an exhibition match in London to coincide with the Olympics.

9. Outhouse Racing

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Rugged living leads to rowdy sports, or so it would seem given those who embrace the sport of outhouse racing. Found through much of the US, this is a sport of hometown fun and foolishness. The Australians practice it too, though there it is known as dunny racing. By either name, it’s a sport you can get a mental picture of quickly. Or possibly not. Here’s how it works in one Australian town: Every second year in September, the town of Winton in the outback of Queensland hosts the Sorbent Australian Dunny Derby. Twenty “dunny jockeys” sit astride dunnies on wheels pulled by a team of four to race to the finish line of a 250-meter track. All the jockeys are weighed in before and after each race and a professional race caller is present to call the race. Then just pick your favorite dunny and bet on it, although you may not win as much as the winning team, which is given AU$3,000. After the Derby has finished, everyone joins together to sing and dance to their favorite country music.

10. Pumpkin Chunking

Champions of this autumnal sport can send gourds more than 4,000 feet in the air. In fact, the World Record pumpkin flight is more than a mile (5,545.43 feet to be exact). While Pumpkin Chunking happens, formally and informally, throughout the US, the biggest competition is held annually by the World Championship Pumpkin Chunkin Association (WCPCA) in Sussex County, Delaware the first full weekend in November. The competition features catapults, air cannons, trebuchets and even human-powered categories for firing the pumpkins, and also has kids divisions. For aspiring fans, tune into the Science Channel, which airs the event on Thanksgiving Day proceeded by an hour-long special about the preparation for the World Cup called the “Road to the Chunk.”

Editing by Paul Casciato

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