For most of us, the idea of a competition – outside of the area of popular sports – involves some relatively tame activity. Shooting darts, egg and spoon races or showcasing a pampered dog aren’t exactly nail biting events. It goes without saying that some of the most popular forms of competition on earth are extremely safe. However, there are many daredevils in our society, and these thrill-seekers have set up some rather shocking competitions. These competitions are designed to test their entrants’ physical capabilities, strong stomachs and technical know-how. Some of them force entrants to endure extreme conditions, or to push their bodies to their absolute limit. Other contests bring out an entrant’s creative side, and this creativity can come in many forms. Whether it’s art or electronics, some of the world’s most brilliant minds use these competitions to show what they’re made of.
There are also some annual competitions that are just downright weird. Take the Air Guitar World Championships in Oulu, Finland. This competition draws in air guitar enthusiasts from all over the world, who perform their carefully choreographed pieces on stage to music, in front of a live audience. It certainly is a niche audience – but the competition has been running for years now due to continued support and success.
While some people might scoff at the following daredevils’ crazy antics, the creativity and innovation shown by many of these people is truly outstanding, particularly in competitions that require huge amounts of forward planning and design work. As Leo Burnett once said, “Curiosity about life in all of its aspects, I think, is still the secret of great creative people”. With this in mind, read on to find out about 8 of the Most Extreme Competitions on Earth. If you had to, which one would you enter?
8. Stinging-Nettle Eating Contest, England
Stinging nettles are avoided by most people at all costs, but believe it or not, some people have decided to make consuming them a sport! The contest is held annually in Devon, England. Of course, nettles are not harmful to eat in the slightest. Nettle soup is a classic countryside dish – but the nettles used in soup are cooked thoroughly, removing their sting. In this contest, the nettles are ingested raw, meaning that they sting the competitor’s mouth and throat. Nettle leaves are covered in tiny needles which are full of stinging chemicals, which causes a huge amount of discomfort when it comes into contact with human flesh. The competitors are only allowed to take small sips of beer every once and a while. The prize? £100, or a little over $150!
7. World Sauna Championships, Finland
The World Sauna Championships was a popular Finnish event, and competitors came from all over the globe to compete. The contest is self-explanatory: competitors must sit in the sauna for as long as possible, enduring increasingly uncomfortable temperatures. The starting temperature for the men’s event was set at 110 degrees centigrade! During the competition, half a litre of water is added to the sauna every 30 seconds to keep steam levels constant. In order to win, the last man standing must be able to leave the sauna unaided. Shockingly, the championship came to an abrupt end in 2010 when a Russian competitor named Vladimir Ladyzhensky died while competing. Ladyzhensky had stayed in the sauna so long that he suffered third degree burns all over his body. Unfortunately, paramedics could not resuscitate him.
6. Hooper’s World Bog Snorkelling Championships, Wales
This is possibly one of the most unpleasant contests on the planet. Competitors have to snorkel through the Waen Rhydd peat bog in Wales, UK – a dense mass of dirty water, mud, insects and flora. The championship has been running since 1976. Competitors are permitted to wear flippers, and they must swim two lengths of the 60 yard bog to complete the contest. The person to complete the two lengths the fastest is the winner – the current record is held by Andrew Holmes (1 minute and 24 seconds). The championship is hugely popular in the UK, and has a surprisingly positive reputation, as each year all of the proceeds are given to a local charity.
5. Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest, New York
Every year in Brooklyn, New York, competitors must eat as many hot dogs as they can within 10 minutes. One of the most popular of the many ‘extreme eating’ competitions in North America, this one is held annually on the 4th of July. The reigning champion is currently Joey Chestnut, who in 2013 won the contest for the seventh time in a row. Chestnut managed to eat a mind-boggling 69 hot dogs (with buns!) in 10 minutes. Chestnut stated that his secret is moving around as little as possible, along with dipping the buns in water to make them slide down quicker. The event has received significant media coverage over the past couple of years, and Joey Chestnut has earned a kind of celebrity status due to his large number of wins.
4. Spud Gun Contest, Worldwide
Various spud gun (or potato cannon) contests take place worldwide each year. These contests are extremely technical and are taken incredibly seriously by competitors. The typical design for a spud gun is a pipe which uses air pressure or combustion to launch potatoes. Building the guns often costs competitors huge amounts of money, and many competitions have entry fees of $1000 and up. Spud guns are extremely popular objects in popular culture, having been referenced in popular cult television shows such as Prison Break, The Office and The Simpsons.
3. World Bodypainting Contest, Austria
The World Bodypainting Contest is perhaps one of the most extraordinary contests on the planet. Running since 1998, competitors from all over the world showcase their amazing talent at this competition every year. The competition features many categories, such as UV body paint and airbrushed body paint. There is even a special award for face painting. Many participants choose to add to their entry by providing a backdrop related to their body paint, or to devise a dance routine. Some of the entrants showcase truly extraordinary work. The skilled paintwork sees competitors made up to resemble animals and mythical creatures. The competition is open to both men and women. Around the contest, the World Bodypainting Festival has built up, which has now become a popular family event.
2. Freestyle Alligator Wresting Competition, Florida
The Freestyle Alligator Wrestling Competition is without a doubt one of the most unusual competitions there is. The premise for the competition was derived from ancient Native American hunting techniques, as alligators were a common source of food for these people many years ago. The techniques that the Native Americans used to trap the alligators were practised over time, and the entertainment value of alligator wrestling was soon realised. The FAWC claims that it prioritises the safety of the alligators, and that the competition adheres to the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission rules concerning the treatment of alligators. The FAWC also states on their website that the alligators they use for the competition have been rescued from alligator trappers.
1. Extreme Ironing, Worldwide
As weird as it sounds, extreme ironing tops our list of the Most Extreme Competitions On Earth. Extreme ironing is classed as an ‘extreme sport’. The aim of the game is to iron in the most remote, extreme location that you can possibly find. The ironing must be done properly, using an ironing board. The competition describes itself as “the latest danger sport that combines the thrills of an extreme outdoor activity with the satisfaction of a well-pressed shirt.”
Extreme ironing is popular not only because of its quirkiness, but the creativity demonstrated by the participants. There are many separate events worldwide, and competition is fierce. Previous entries have featured contestants ironing whilst bungee jumping, ironing underwater, ironing while skydiving and ironing on horseback. Extreme ironing began in 1997 in Leicester, UK, when a man named Phil Shaw decided to iron in his garden. His roommate referred to his antics as “extreme ironing”, and the idea was born.