Sports Travel: 6 Unusual Events Around The World

Have you ever thought about putting sports travel on your bucket list? This specialised type of travel, also known as sports tourism, is all about watching and, possibly, participating in sporting events. It is an excellent way for sports enthusiasts to merge their wanderlust with their love for sports.

Sports travel is even more fun if you are going for unique sport events and unusual sport events. Fortunately, there are many unique sport events around the world. These events offer an exciting opportunity to engage with local culture, visit famous landmarks and towns and witness a possibly absurd but exciting activity. Of course, you will come back with stories; rest assured, your friends will be captivated because who doesn’t like hearing about something fun and unusual?

Mallakhamb, aka “yoga on a pole”, is considered to be one of the ‘fastest-growing traditional sports in the world. | Credit: Vishwa Mallakhamb Federation

Plan Like a Pro: How to make the best sports travel plans

If you’re interested in going on a sports travel adventure, here are some steps to help you make the most of your experience:

  • Choose: Determine which sporting event or sports-related activity you want to witness or participate in. Consider this list of unique sport events and unusual sport events. Research destinations of these events and select the one that resonates with your travel plans.
  • Research: Once you’ve chosen your destination, read up on the event, including dates, venues, accommodation, tickets, if any, and other relevant information. Familiarise yourself with related landmarks in the area and plan your itinerary accordingly. Give yourself time to explore the destination and immerse yourself in the event.
  • Plan: Purchase tickets, if any, for the unique sport events well in advance to secure your spot. Do visit official event websites and use authorised ticket sellers. Try to book accommodation near the event venue or in a central location that offers convenient access to transportation and other amenities.
  • Transportation: Determine the best mode of transportation to reach your destination. Check flight options and book your tickets if it’s an international trip. You may have to travel out of the city, so consider trains, buses, or car rentals depending on the targeted location and preferences.
  • Immerse and enjoy: Take the time to explore the destination. This is the best time to engage with locals, visit sports-themed attractions, explore sports-related museums, and dine at sports bars or themed restaurants. You may also want to see other tourist destinations or attend other cultural or recreational activities that the destination has to offer.
  • Participate: We highly encourage actively participating during your sports travel. Research local sports facilities or clubs offering golf, tennis, skiing, or water sports. Can you try something new? Engaging in sports activities, especially unusual sport events, is a fantastic way to make friends and enhance your overall travel experience.
  • Stay Safe: Stay updated on changes or updates regarding the event. Pay attention to schedule modifications, security measures, or additional entry requirements. As always, keep your personal belongings secure, be mindful of your surroundings, and follow any safety guidelines from the event organisers or local authorities.
The small town of Sonkajaervi in Finland annually hosts the International Wife Carrying Championships. The wife should be at least 17 and weigh 49 kilos or more. If the wife is lighter, she should carry an additional rucksack. | Credit: Wife Carrying World Championship

6 Unique sport events around the world

Sports travel provides a unique opportunity to combine your passion for sports with the excitement of being in a new destination. You can connect with fellow sports enthusiasts from different countries, backgrounds and cultures. There is a great sense of camaraderie and shared experiences. Sports travel will leave you with lifelong memories.

Around the world, unusual sport events push the boundaries of tradition and challenge our beliefs of what constitutes a “normal” sport. From acrobatic pole stunts to stone jumping and Tuna tossing, these events showcase the diversity of human creativity and inject excitement into our lives.

Our list of six unusual sport events captures the imagination and bring people together in the spirit of laughter, camaraderie, and friendly competition.

Yoga On A Pole: Mallakhamb

Sports Travel: India
Mallakhamb started as a complementary exercise for wrestling as it improves strength, stamina, speed, endurance, flexibility, neuro–muscular coordination, balance, confidence, courage, and other abilities. | Credit: Vishwa Mallakhamb Federation

Mallakhamb is a captivating physical activity hailing from India. In this unusual sport event, athletes defy gravity and perform jaw-dropping acrobatics on a vertical wooden pole. It is often described as ‘yoga on a pole’ and involves awe-inspiring moves like handstands, flips, and jumps.

Mallakhamb is a fusion of physical prowess and mental fortitude, leaving spectators in awe. A boost was given to this indigenous sport when the first-ever Mallakhamb World Championship was held in Mumbai in 2019. Then, 17 nations participated in this competitive event, but we can expect even more countries to join as this sport grows in popularity worldwide.

Stone Jumping: Hombo Batu

Sports Travel: Nias, Indonesia
The government and the Central Committee of Sail Nias have proposed that the traditional village of Bawomataluo is recognised as a UNESCO World Heritage site. | Credit: Kementerian Komunikasi dan Informatika Republik Indonesia

Nias is an island in the East of North Sumatra, famous for its waves and swell among surfers and its unique culture. This is where a tradition,  a stone jumping competition called Hombo Batu, will make your heart beat a little faster.

Hombo Batu is a tradition passed down for centuries in Bawomataluo, a village in Nias. Bawomataluo means “hill of the sun” in the local dialect. This unusual event provides a rare glimpse of one of the few megalithic cultures preserved.

Young men typically perform stone jumping by attempting to leap over a stack of stones about 2 meters high. It is a ceremonial practice and a demonstration of physical maturity. In addition, reports say by doing so, these courageous young men are proving that they are ready to become warriors.

The Nias community believes that, in addition to training, there is a magical element from the ancestral spirits for those who successfully jump over the stones with ease and grace. To reach Nias, you can fly from Jakarta to Medan, then take a connecting flight to Binaka Airport at  Gunungsitoli, the island’s only airport.

Topple the Pole: Bo-taoshi

Now consider a dynamic team sport like no other in the land of the rising sun. Japan’s Bo-taoshi is a century-old game combining American football, rugby, sumo and martial arts elements.

Bo-taoshi, or “topple the pole,” is said to be a rite of passage at Kaisei, one of Japan’s most prestigious secondary schools. Bo-taoshi has been a part of Kaisei’s sports festival since 1929, though the game was created years before. Teachers say the competition promotes teamwork, toughness and sportsmanship.

The goal of Bo-taoshi is to topple a towering wooden pole. Teams are divided into two groups: 75 players are the attackers, and the other 75 are the defenders. The defenders defend their pole while the attackers try to get to the other team’s pole by punching, kicking and gouging; the first team to bring down the bar claims victory.

To add to the atmosphere, attackers and defenders wear colourful headbands and pump each other up with throat-clearing chants like “Fight to the finish!” and “Win at all costs”. Unfortunately, there isn’t a lot of protective gear besides soft helmets, kneepads, and athletic cups, so expect sprains, cuts and bloody noses.

Human Tower: Castell

Sports Travel: Spain
Castells are human towers usually built during annual festivities in Catalonian towns and cities. Anyone is welcome to form the pinya, i.e., the crowd that supports the tower’s base. | Credit: Castellers de Barcelona Archive, 2007

The Catalonia region in Spain is known for lively beaches, the Pyrenees Mountains, Art Nouveau masterpieces and Barcelona. This is also where the unusual sport of human tower building takes. Castells refer to massive towers of humans that can reach jaw-dropping heights.

The sport is to build the tallest castell and dismantle it in a controlled fashion, i.e., without uncontrolled toppling. This takes precision, and every aspect of castell-building is carefully managed. Each level of the human tower has a specific name and function. With careful attention to detail, severe injuries and fatalities are surprisingly rare. This is excellent news since thousands in the middle of unforgiving concrete or brick town squares surround these human towers.

Castells were added to UNESCO’s list of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity in 2010 as an “integral part of the (Catalan) cultural identity”. Twelve years later, some 11,000 spectators packed the bullring in Tarragona to watch this fantastic unusual event in 2022. Note that this event is held every two years.

Race A Stick

Sports Travel: UK
The Race a Stick game originates from author AA Milne’s Winnie the Pooh novel, The House At Pooh Corner | Credit: The World Poohsticks Championships

Time to relive your childhood, and this unusual sport travel event will be delightful for Pooh Bear fans. The Pooh Sticks World Championships in Oxfordshire, UK, is inspired by AA Milne’s classic Winnie the Pooh books.

Here are the rules:

  1. Select a stick, face upstream, side by side with fellow competitors
  2. Choose either the oldest or the youngest competitor as a “starter.”
  3. Competitors must hold their stick at arm’s length over the stream, usually from a bridge, at the same height as the shortest competitor’s stick.
  4. All competitors must drop their sticks into the water at the same time on the starter’s call. Throwing is not allowed.
  5. The players must then cross to the downstream side of the bridge and wait for the sticks to emerge.
  6. The owner of the first stick to float from under the bridge is the winner

As you can see, the World Pooh Sticks Championships is a fantastic day out for children. This year, this fun event celebrated its 40th anniversary on May 28.

Tuna Throwing

Sports Travel: Australia
Tunarama is South Australia’s largest regional community festival featuring a wide array of participation events, arts and cultural displays, local market stalls and some of the freshest seafood in the world. | Credit: Tunarama Festival

An unusual and extraordinary fun sport event is a tuna throwing competition held annually in Port Lincoln, South Australia. The Tunarama festival is held over four days and coincides with the Australia Day long weekend every January.

This festival is ideal for the whole family as there is a wide array of events, arts and cultural displays, local market stalls, and some of the freshest seafood in the world. The highlight is the mighty Tuna Throwing competition, where contestants pit their strength against a 10 kg rubber tuna. The aim is to throw this rubber fish as far as possible.

Throwing Tuna as a sport initially began to educate people about Port Lincoln’s bustling multi-million-dollar industry. Real frozen Tuna was used until 2008 when a rubber replica replaced it. Besides the world-famous tuna toss, a Salmon Toss, Prawn Toss, Watermelon Eating Competition, Sand Castle Building, and a Swim Thru take place at this festival.

Here is another activity on the list of weird sport events. Cheese-rolling, now officially an extreme sport, has competitors heading to Gloucester from all over the world. | Credit: Netflix Malaysia

The next time you seek a sports travel adventure off the beaten path, consider attending one of these extraordinary events. These unique sport events worldwide will entertain and surprise you and remind you of the boundless joy and excitement at the heart of the human spirit. These events remind us of our ability to create, compete, and celebrate in the most unexpected and delightful ways. Happy travels!

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