6 Unusual Extreme Sports From Around the World
Would you try volcano boarding or extreme ironing?
Just about everyone is familiar with rock climbing, bungee jumping, skydiving and other popular extreme sports. But what about extreme ironing? Or underwater hockey? There are tons of thrilling activities out there that you've probably never heard of — they're just as daring but a whole lot wackier. Check out these six quirky sports from around the world. Would you try them?
According to the official Facebook page, extreme ironing "combines the thrill of an extreme outdoor activity with the satisfaction of a well-pressed shirt." The sport was started by Paul Shaw in 1997 in the town of Leicester, England, who decided to make a tedious chore more exciting by combining it with his favorite pastime: rock climbing. Since then, people around the world have combined ironing with hiking, stand-up paddle boarding, scuba diving and more. In 2002, the first Extreme Ironing World Championships were held in Munich. The winning ironist's name was, appropriately, Hot Pants.
CORDILLERA DE LOS MARIBIOS, NICARAGUA - UNDATED: A boarder makes their way down the Cerro Negro volcano in the Cordillera de los Maribios mountain range in Nicaragua. What do you do when you have snowboarded down all of the mountains that Europe and North America have to offer? Head to Nicagua and board a volcano! Cerro Negro, (726 meters) is Central America's youngest volcano and has been one of the most active volcanoes in Nicaragua. The Bigfoot Hostel in Leon offers it's guests a trip to hike to the top of the volcano and then board the 500m down at speeds of up to 80kmh. (Photo by Bigfoot Hostel / Barcroft Media / Getty Images)
Developed on the slopes of Cerro Negro in Nicaragua, this sport involves sliding down the side of a volcano on a plywood and metal board. (The sport’s creator, Daryn Webb, tested several potential materials, from picnic tables to mattresses.) Several tour groups (including Bigfoot Hostel, opened by Webb in 2004) lead adventurous guests on a one-hour hike up the volcano, then provide all the gear needed to sled down the other side at speeds up to 95 km/hour.
Dating back to the 19th century or earlier, the Cooper's Hill Cheese-Rolling and Wake is an annual event in Gloucester, England, in which competitors chase an eight-pound round of Double Gloucester cheese down a very steep hill. The first person to reach the finish line at the bottom wins the cheese, but slips and falls are unavoidable along the way. In 2010, the official event was cancelled due to safety concerns after more than 15,000 people showed up to watch in 2009, but it’s been held unofficially ever since.
In 1994, New Zealanders Dwane van der Sluis and Andrew Akers invented the Zorb – essentially a human-sized hamster ball made of two layers of flexible plastic with air in between for cushioning. Riders can roll around in the ball – harnessed or loose, on land or on water. You can Zorb in many locations all over the world now, but the original Zorb New Zealand is located in Rotorua.
Also known as Octopush, underwater hockey was invented by Alan Blake in the 1950s in Portsmouth, England, as a winter activity for scuba divers. Like ice hockey, players use sticks to push a puck into goals located on opposite ends of the pool. Unlike ice hockey, players wear swimsuits, fins and snorkel masks. The sport now enjoys worldwide popularity, particularly in the United Kingdom, Australia and South Africa. There’s even a Underwater Hockey World Championship held every two years.
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Started in Finland, wife carrying (or eukonkanto in Finnish) is an obstacle course competition with a twist: each male competitor has to carry a female throughout the entire race in one of three ways: piggyback, a fireman’s lift (over the shoulder) or Estonian style (the wife hangs upside down with her legs around the husband’s shoulders). Pairs from around the world compete in the Wife Carrying World Championship each year in Sonkajarvi. There are also qualifying events around the world, including the North American Wife Carrying Championship in Newry, Maine. The winners are rewarded with the wife’s weight in beer, five times her weight in cash and an entry into the World Championship.
Travel to Switzerland’s cold tundra to go ice climbing -- if rock climbing isn’t extreme enough for you. Ascend up ice formations like frozen waterfalls, ice slabs or rocks covered with frozen water flow or ice. This adrenaline-driven winter activity is recognized as a competitive sport. The International Mountaineering and Climbing Federation organizes both the Ice Climbing World Cup and International Championships every year.
It’s snowmobiling with an extra kick! In snocross, riders race at a speed of up to 60 mph on a track that usually consists of tight turns, banked corners, steep jumps and obstacles. From November through March, AMSOIL Championship Snocross events are held all over the US, including in Duluth, MN; Traverse City, MI; Deadwood, SD; and Lake Geneva, WI.
St. Moritz is just one place sports fans can visit to see snow polo players in action. This variant of polo is played on compacted snow, on flat ground or on a frozen lake. Each team usually consists of 3 players who battle it out by hitting a light, bright-colored plastic ball into a goal. Save the date Aspen, CO, usually hosts the USPA World Snow Polo Championship in Marloth Park on the third weekend in December.
The first competitive skijoring races were held in Scandinavia as an offshoot of the older sport of pulka. For those unfamiliar with this winter sport, skijoring involves a horse, dog(s) or a motor vehicle pulling a skier. Races are held all around the world where there is snow in the winter. The longest race is held in Kalevala, Karelia, Russia. Skiers pulled by dogs must race 270 bone-chilling miles to cross the finish line.
Go snow scooting! Cut your snowboard in half, screw on some handlebars and hop onboard. The unconventional sport is popular in Europe, but has yet to catch on in the US. We recommend traveling to Tignes, a ski resort in southeastern France, to experience snow scooting in the Alps.
Swimming in a body of water with a frozen crust of ice is normal practice in several countries, including the UK, Finland, Belgium, Russia and China. In the US and Canada, members of polar bear clubs take the plunge and go swimming in the winter. Take the plunge yourself and go swimming in the winter or ice swimming. The Coney Island Polar Bear Club (Coney Island, NY) is the oldest ice-swimming club in the US.
Instead of hopping on a ski lift, jump from a helicopter to start your ski run downhill. These off-trail runs sometimes consist of high alpine glaciers, wooded areas and steep slopes. Skiers, looking for an adrenaline-rush adventure, should head to heli-skiing destinations like Alaska, Iceland, Nepal, Chile, Russia and New Zealand.
Ice Cross Downhill
The first inaugural race for ice cross downhill was on Jan. 20, 2000, in Stockholm. Wearing skates, hockey players have a head-to-head battle down an ice track packed with gap jumps, ice steps, high vertical drops and razor-sharp hairpin turns. These competitions -- Red Bull Crashed Ice -- are held in various locations like Quebec City, Canada; St. Paul, MN; Niagara Falls, Canada; and Landgraaf, Netherlands.
Forget about sledding down snowy hills -- hop into a kayak for an exciting twist to traditional sledding. Go snow kayaking, an extreme sport not allowed at most ski resorts. Professional competitions consist of bumps, turns and other obstacles to keep competitors’ adrenaline pumping.
Snow kiting is an outdoor winter sport where people use kite power to glide on snow or ice. This unique sport is similar to kite surfing, but snowboarding or skiing footwear is used. Snow kiting is becoming popular in places often associated with skiing and snowboarding like Sweden, France, Canada, Austria and central and northern US.
Tesoro Arctic Man Classic
More than 13,000 people converge on Paxson, AK, to witness the Tesoro Arctic Man Classic. Teams of 2 compete with the skier starting the race out at a 5,800-foot summit. They then drop 1,700 feet in less than 2 miles, where the skier meets up with his snowmobiling partner. The snowmobiler pulls the skier uphill at top speeds of up to 86 mph. On the final leg of the race, the skier separates from his partner and drops another 1,200 feet to the finish line.