Everyone should have a hobby, they say. According to psychological studies, hobbies help us to deal with stress, develop friendships, and build a life-work balance. Sometimes, hobbies can even make us appear more attractive to others or be used to spice up an otherwise boring CV.
Initially, hobbies tend to be undertaken purely for the enjoyment of the thing itself. But, when people get really good at something, even if that something is pretty darned peculiar, they soon want to compare themselves against other enthusiasts, and before you know it, a world championship is born.
While it may take thousands of hours of training to win a world championship in running, say, or jumping, there are some hobbies which require not so much talent as perseverance. And sometimes, all you need is to be a little weird.
Swamp football is a variation on a traditional soccer match and was probably started by someone who liked to make lemonade whenever life handed him a lemon.
Soccer pitches are normally tended with great care by a whole team of groundsmen, but a swamp football match would never be called off because of a waterlogged pitch. In fact, they don’t need a pitch at all. Games are played in a swamp or bog, though for the world championships, a properly marked out pitch is created from a field which is then deliberately waterlogged.
Traditional soccer rules have also been somewhat modified. The game consists of two halves, each 13 minutes long. Boots are not allowed to be changed during play, and any player who loses a boot in the mud will be sent off.
The game originated in Finland as a way for cross-country skiers to maintain their fitness out of season but has been taken up around the world, with an estimated 300 teams now playing. The first world cup attracted 13 teams, but these days, the event attracts over 200 sides.
If you are interested in football and like getting dirty, this may be the hobby for you. The sport is open to both men and women, and you can sign up to the Swampions League today.
Pancake tossing may not seem at first glance like an actual hobby, and certainly not a championship hobby, but the record books abound with people tossing the largest pancakes or tossing their pancakes faster, higher, further, and more. There have been mass pancake tosses and people tossing their pancakes while running marathons.
Regular pancake tossing competitions are run around the world, with the world championships taking place in the UK. Their motto is, “Toss high and toss well.” Words to live by.
If you are serious about tossing your pancake, however, the place to be is Olney, Buckinghamshire, where people have been tossing pancakes for over 550 years. Men are not allowed to enter the famous Olney Pancake Race. Outsiders are not permitted to enter, either, so if you fancy competing, you will need to live in the town for at least three months prior to the Shrove Tuesday race. Only 25 housewives are allowed to enter, and they must wear the traditional housewife’s uniform of an apron and headscarf. They run 415 yards from the Market Square to the Parish Church and must be sure to flip the pancake as they cross the finish line.
Since 1950, when the Olney housewives were challenged by the housewives of the town of Liberal, Kansas, the race has been run on both sides of the Atlantic.
Dog grooming is normally considered just a necessary chore. The dogs don’t enjoy it, and neither do their owners. However, some people, and hopefully their dogs, too, just can’t get enough of it.
They don’t just limit themselves to the occasional bath and haircut, though. Some pet groomers get creative, turning their pooch into a wide array of children’s characters or creating a fantasy land from their coats. Your Leonberger could become an ensemble from The Jungle Book, your Siberian Husky could double as a dragon, and your miniature poodle could be the spitting image of Yoda.
The World Dog Grooming Championships take place annually in Hershey, Pennsylvania, attracting competitors from around the world. Judges are looking for “clean cuts, the consistency of the dye, and the creativity of the groomer.”
Not recommended by the manufacturer, mobile phone throwing is normally only done in a fit of anger, which rapidly turns to regret when the screen cracks, and you remember how much a replacement costs. Some people, however, are always keen to turn misfortune to their advantage and, instead of taking anger management classes, have turned mobile phone throwing into a legitimate sport.
In Finland, mobile phone throwing has become a national sport. Contestants gather annually in the town of Savonlinna to compete in the championships. Any brand of phone is allowed, though the use of personal phones is forbidden. All competition devices have been donated for the purpose, and competitors are encouraged to “choose the phone that fits best to his/her hand or looks the nicest.” Some competitors prefer heavier phones, while others go with lighter versions. To date, there has been little data gathered on the flight properties of phones, so whatever takes your fancy seems to be the rule.
The longest throw for a mobile phone? 110.42 meters (362.27 ft), according to Guinness World Records. If you fancy a go, you can compete in the traditional over the shoulder throwing contest or go really wild and enter the freestyle competition, where you can be as “creative” with your throw as you like.
Or, there are always those anger management classes. That could be a hobby, right?
For those people who find bog snorkeling just a bit too pedestrian, there’s the new hobby of bog snorkeling on a bicycle.
Bog snorkeling, in case you weren’t aware, is a sport, first introduced in Wales, which involves competitors “swimming” through a 55-meter (180 ft) trench cut out of a peat bog. The water is muddy, visibility is nil, and you are required to not so much swim as flounder your way from one end of the trench to the other. Boring, right?
So, to inject a bit of excitement, someone came up with the idea of doing the whole thing on a bike. The trench is 2 meters (6.6 ft) deep and filled with muddy water that smells, well, like a bog. The effort required to ride a bike through 2 meters of bog water seems to be considerable. Not only that, but many competitors choose to compete in fancy dress.
If you enjoy cycling, snorkeling, and bogs, this may well be the hobby for you. And, you never know; you may even become a champion. The World Mountain Bike Bog Snorkelling Championship takes place annually in Wales. You will need to prepare, however. Your bike frame should be filled with lead shot, to give it added weight, and the tires filled with water to help them grip the bog bed. You are also advised to fill a saddle bag with lead weights. Riders must wear a wet suit to keep warm and a weight belt to prevent them from floating off the bike. Of course, they shouldn’t forget their snorkel.
And when they get to the end of the trench, they have to turn right around and ride back again.
Before the invention of television, people had to make their own entertainment. They were simpler times. Almost anything could be turned into a hobby. Take cheese rolling, for instance. Not a method for making cheese, cheese rolling involves, in essence, chasing a large wheel of cheese down a hill.
The Cooper’s Hill Cheese-Rolling and Wake begins at the top of Cooper’s Hill in Gloucestershire, England, and it ends at the bottom. The hill is a steep one, with a 1:2 gradient, and competitors must chase a 3.2-to-4.1-kilogram (7–9 lb) Double Gloucester circular cheese 200 yards to the bottom. The first person to cross the finish line wins. Many competitors fall much of the way, and broken ankles are common, as are broken limbs and dislocated joints. On one occasion, someone suffered a broken neck. In 2013, the cheese was replaced with a lightweight foam replica, but real cheese was used again the next year.
If you are still considering it, you should know that the aim is to try to catch the cheese, but as they roll at speeds up to 112 kilometers per hour (70 mph), almost no one does. Should you survive the run/fall and win, you could be going home with the fabulous prize of (drumroll, please) the cheese!
Some hobbies are unusual. Some are eccentric. And some are just nuts. We’re pretty sure that baby jumping falls into the last category.
Beginning during the 17th century and continuing annually ever since, the town of Castrillo de Murcia in Spain has held a weeklong festival, during which a man, dressed as a devil and called “El Colacho,” jumps over rows of babies, rather like Evel Knievel but without the bike.
Babies born in the town over the past year are lined up on mattresses in the street. El Colacho then leaps over them, after which they are blessed and showered with rose petals, while the devil runs on. None of this makes any sense.
If you don’t want to risk jumping over babies, you could take part in the other events at the festival, most of which also involve dressing up as a devil and running through the town, this time hitting the bystanders with switches.
In the 400 or so years that the festival has been running, there have been no reports of injuries to the babies, so if you fancy having a go, the chances are that you probably won’t kill an infant. Has to be worth a try, right?
Back to Finland again. (In all fairness, they have some really long nights to fill, and what better way to fill them than inventing new hobbies?) If you are fit, strong, and in possession of a “try anything once” sort of wife, you might consider wife carrying as a hobby.
According to legend, wife carrying has its roots in the late 1800s, when a brigand by the name of Rosvo-Ronkainen decided to introduce an entrance exam to those who wished to join his ranks. As stealing women was a routine part of a brigand’s duties while pillaging a village, it made sense (kind of) to test a candidate’s skill at carrying their wives/victims at speed over a set distance.
Modern wife carrying competitions do not, however, require any pillaging. Teammates (who do not need to be wives but do need to be female), are usually held by the legs while they dangle facedown toward the ground, in what is known as the “Estonian Carry,” while the runner sprints as fast as he can over a roughly 250-meter (820 ft) course. However, wife carriers aren’t an uptight bunch, and you may carry your wife any way you please.
You do not need to live in Finland to participate in the sport, either. There are wife carrying associations all over the world, including the US and Canada, where the North American Wife Carrying Competition is alive and well, with national competitions held in Maine each October.
So, if you are looking for an activity that will bring you and your partner closer together, this may well be the one for you.
Beekeeping is a fairly normal sort of hobby. Bee wearing, on the other hand, is not.
China, however, has a growing number of bee wearing hobbyists. Take Gao Bingguo, for example. In 2014, he became the world record holder in bee suit wearing after being covered with 326,000 bees and wearing his “suit” for two and a half hours.
Like all athletes, Gao needed to prepare for his record attempt. He was an experienced beekeeper and was therefore familiar with the habits of bees. Before undertaking the record attempt, he showered, since, it seems, bees are more likely to sting smelly people. He put plugs up his nose, because no one wants a bee going up there, and protected his eyes with cling-film. His mouth was left unwrapped so that he could speak, breathe, and smoke the occasional cigarette. Then, while wearing only a pair of shorts, a box of queen bees was opened onto him, followed swiftly by 33 kilograms (73 lb) of worker bees.
The bees swarmed over Gao, following their queen, and soon, he became a living, breathing hive. At the end of the two and a half hours, and with a world record in his pocket, Gao Bingguo took an ice bath and reportedly pulled out over 2,000 bee stingers which he had received during the challenge. But he did get a nice certificate to hang on his wall. The next year, he broke his own record by wearing even more bees (pictured above).
If you don’t fancy a whole suit of bees, you could just put bees on your face. In India, a man by the name of “Nature” set a record for wearing 60,000 bees on his face for over four hours.
Well, we all have to start somewhere.
If you live in, er, Finland, you might like to take up hobby horse riding. A hobby horse is, basically, a wooden pole with a horse’s head at the top, usually made from felt or other colorful material. In other words, it is a toy, usually designed for small children around the age of three or four.
However, the Finns are nothing if not inventive. They have developed a whole range of sports around the hobby horse. You can compete in the flat racing competition, show jumping, and even dressage. Rules of the competitions are strict, and points are awarded for presentation, grooming, tension of reins, length of stride, posture, speed, and (we are not making this up) “horse/rider interaction.”
The horses are often treated as real, being covered with hobby-horse blankets while they sleep, for example. Riders can often be found in Finnish parks taking their hobby horse for a quick canter around the greens. Most hobby horsers are, it seems, teenage girls, though the number of boys interested in the sport is said to be growing.
As hobbies go, this seems to be a pretty harmless one. And cheap, too, with the average horse costing only a few dollars. However, if you decide to go in for the related pastime of hobby horse grooming, the costs might rise. After all, diamante is not cheap.