Every four years, athletes from around the world compete in more than 50 sports at the Winter and Summer Olympics. But not every sport is fit for the Olympic stage. Here are a few non-traditional international matchups.
1. THE WORLD BEARD AND MOUSTACHE CHAMPIONSHIP
Long hair, don't care! Competitors come from all over the world to show off the beards, mustaches, and whiskers they’ve been cultivating for years at the World Beard and Moustache Championship. The international contest is divided into 17 categories, including everything from Hungarian Moustache to Garibaldi beard. While the time and place of the 2016 world championship has yet to be announced, this year’s U.S. championship took place on September 3 at the historic Ryman Auditorium in Nashville.
2. WORLD COW-MILKING CHAMPIONSHIP
It's udder chaos at the World Cow-milking Championship in Malonno, Brescia, Italy. The contest, set for October 16 this year, challenges teams of two (one human and one cow) to produce as much milk as possible in the shortest amount of time—without the help of machines. This year's participants will take on undefeated champ Gianmario Ghirardi who got 8.7 liters of milk from his cow Mirka in just two minutes in 2014.
3. WORLD SUDOKU CHAMPIONSHIP
Every year, the World Puzzle Federation welcomes more than 200 brainteaser fans from over 25 countries to the World Sudoku Championship, held in a different nation each time. This year's competition—a part of the World Puzzle Championship, which includes games like Kakuro, Mastermind, Battleships, Complex Mazes, Word Search, and others—will take place in Senec, Slovakia, from October 16 to 23. There's no prize money, instead all contenders compete for two days for the honor of being Top 3 in individual, teams, contestants over 50, contestants under 18, or newcomers.
Word to the wise: The registration deadline has expired, but you can still enter by October 10 if you're a member of your local World Puzzle Federation chapter and you're willing to fork over an extra 15 percent in participation fees. You can train with a few sample puzzles here [PDF].
4. MOBILE PHONE THROWING WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS
Ever been so annoyed with your phone that you want to chuck it? The Finns have harnessed that frustration and made mobile phone-throwing into what the organizers of this competition call a “light and modern Finnish sport.” If you have some experience flinging a phone as far as you can, you can try out for the annual Mobile Phone Throwing World Championships in Savonlinna, Finland. But leave your smartphone at home. Contestants are only allowed to pick from the assortment of mobile devices provided by the organizers. The next championship—which features four categories, Junior, Freestyle, Original, and Teams Originals—will be on March 11, 2017.
5. AIR GUITAR WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS
You don’t have to be a musician, but you do have to look like one to stand a chance in the Air Guitar World Championships held in Oulu, Finland. During the 21st annual championships that were recently held from August 24 to 26, the winners of the National Air Guitar Championships in 10 countries competed on a bigger stage, in front of 8000 fans. This year, New Yorker Matt "Airistotle" Burns came out on top. “It’s a crazy thing to have your dreams come true,” he told The New York Post.
6. WORLD BOGSNORKELLING CHAMPIONSHIPS
The World Bogsnorkelling Championships take place every August at the Waen Rhydd peat bog in Llanwrtyd Wells, Wales. Bogsnorkelling, or bog snorkeling, is a race in which participants run, swim, and fight their way through a trench that's located in a peat bog. While competitors don flippers and snorkels, they aren’t allowed to use normal swimming strokes. Read an account of the experience here.
7. WIFE CARRYING WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP
The Wife Carrying World Championship take place every summer in Sonkajärvi Finland. Each team consists of a man carrying a "wife." While the “wife” does not have to be his wife, or even a married woman, she must be at least 17 years old and weigh a minimum of 108 pounds. (Otherwise, her partner is required to also carry weights.)
Participants in this race, measuring less than a mile, tackle obstacles—and are mandated by the rules to have fun. Winners are declared in the under 40 and 40-and-over categories, plus there are prizes for the best costumes, most entertaining couple, and strongest carrier. Then there’s the relay race, in which three men hand off one wife to each other.
8. WORLD CHAMPION SQUIRREL COOK OFF
Have a recipe for squirrel meat that you’re particularly proud of? You might want to enter next year's annual World Champion Squirrel Cook Off in Bentonville, Arkansas. In the contest, two- or three-person teams have 2.5 hours to cook a main dish in which at least 80 percent of the meat is squirrel as well as a side dish. There are cash prizes for the best dishes, and proceeds help support several charities.
9. WORLD POOH STICKS CHAMPIONSHIPS
The annual World Pooh Sticks Championships—sponsored by the Rotary Club Oxford Spires—took place in June this year in Witney, Oxfordshire, UK. Not sure what's involved? Oh, bother.
Poohsticks, or Pooh Sticks, is a game from the Winnie-the-Pooh books by A.A. Milne in which everyone drops a stick into a body of running water upstream from a bridge. Then, the participants race to the bridge to see whose stick emerges on the far side of the bridge first. The game is rather low on the competitive scale, but that only makes it easier for children of different ages to participate.
10. WORLD STONE SKIMMING CHAMPIONSHIPS
It takes a good arm and lots of practice to take the prize at the World Stone Skimming Championships at Easdale Island, Argyll, Scotland. Winners are decided on the length of the throw before the stone sinks. To be counted, each contender's stone must skip at least three times. The contest—which always takes place on the last Sunday in September—is limited to the first 350 people who register, because the contest must be completely finished before the last ferry leaves the island.
11. SWAMP SOCCER WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS
Participants get down and dirty at the Swamp Soccer World Championships, where football is played in a swamp or bog. (It's similar to the American sport of mud wrestling.) While the sport originated in Finland, there are now swamp soccer leagues in several countries. The championship tournament takes place in Vuorisuo, Finland, every June.
12. WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP GURNING
Every year on the third weekend in September, t
he Egremont Crab Fair in Cumbria, England, hosts the World Championship Gurning, a competition where participants compete in “gurning” or "making faces.” You don’t need to pre-register, just show up and make your best face. Check out the 2015 competitors here.
13. WORLD CONKER CHAMPIONSHIPS
Conkers is a British game in which two people tie horse chestnuts to a string and swing them at each other until one of the chestnuts breaks, leaving the other as the winner. The simple children’s game is elevated to serious status at the World Conker Championships in Southwick, Northamptonshire, UK. It’s always on the second Sunday in October (October 9 this year) and cost contenders about $13 to enter or about $5 to watch, which goes to charity.
14. WORLD TAXIDERMY & FISH CARVING CHAMPIONSHIPS
Fish carving isn't what you think it is. At least not at the World Taxidermy & Fish Carving Championships. At the competition, which takes place in May every two years, participants show off their skills in taxidermy and fish carving, an art competition in which people carve images of fish from wood. In categories for both amateurs and professionals, taxidermists battle for $30,000 in cash awards, while carvers vie for over $3000.
The next World Show is set for May 16 to 20, 2017, in Peoria, Illinois.
15. HIDE AND SEEK (OR NASCONDINO) WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP
Ready or not, here they come. On September 3 and 4, more than 60 teams of five battled it out in the 7th Annual Hide and Seek World Championships in Italian ghost town Consonno. But the competition doesn't exactly follow the rules you remember from childhood.
All of the 64 teams are split into four groups. During each round, all of the teams send a member to hide while a neutral searching team counts to 60 seconds. Then, each hidden member has 10 minutes to make it to a mattress placed in the middle of the field without being spotted by a finder. The first contender to make it to the mattress gets 16 points, the second person gets 15 points, and so on. If a participant doesn't make it there before the 10 minutes up, the team isn't awarded any points.