#2. Stone Skimming
Put a child in front of a body of water, and eventually he'll pick up a rock and toss it in. It's in our DNA. If there is a flat rock nearby, the kid will try to make it skip or skim across the water, throwing it like a Frisbee so that it hops a few times across the surface. It's the kind of thing you do to kill time at the lake because your parents refuse to let you "help" with the fire.
If said child should fail to develop any other hobbies, after a few years he or she might be ready to enter the World Stone Skimming Championships, a competition that has taken place in Easdale Island, Scotland, on a yearly basis since 1997.
Cooking meth is a less troubling small-town tradition.
Competitors skip for distance, rather than number of skips, and there are some pretty strict rules and regulations. The stones can't be any more than 3 inches in diameter, they have to skip a minimum of three times, and in the event of any disagreements, the judges' decision is final.
There are several divisions, including under-10 boys and girls, adult women and men, and old tossers. There's no division for people wearing stilts, but that's not stopping this guy:
He's the greatest tosser here.
Each of these divisions has a singles and team subdivision, as well as its own prize. Whoever named the trophies took a jab at the elderly competitors by naming their "old tossers" division prize the "Old Tossers Walking Stick."
No, really, this is the actual prize.
But make no mistake, the participants take the competition very seriously. For example, there has been an outcry in the stone-skimming community over a recent rule change: The stones will now be supplied for the contestants, rather than competitors being allowed to bring their own. Long time skimmers argue that choosing a stone that best suits the thrower's style is an important part of the game, but there are plenty of reasons for this rule that make sense: It preserves the natural environment of the lake, it makes a level playing field for all contestants and, seriously, in what other situation do you bring your own stones to a lake and skip them?
Unless you want to win?
#1. World Pooh Sticks Championships
If a little kid tells you he's been playing "Pooh Sticks," your first instinct is to probably make sure you don't shake his hand or accept any food from him. But the game is actually from a Winnie the Pooh story.
"This is great," said Pooh, "but what would be even better would be to kill them all."
Pooh, being a Bear of Very Little Brain and Very High Blood Sugar, didn't need a whole lot to entertain himself. So one day when Pooh was feeling kinda bored, he thought it'd be fun to drop a stick into a river and see how fast it would float downstream, and if he could beat the stick to the other side of the bridge.
And then one day, some people with a bridge, some sticks and too much time on their hands thought this would make for a fun time, too. So they started playing Pooh's stick game and, well, it just grew from there.
Things got creepy pretty much immediately.
As you can see, it soon became a World Championship event held at this little bridge in Oxfordshire, where about 2,000 people from all over the world show up to compete.
Competitors play the same way Winnie the Pooh would have. They take a stick and paint it a different color from the others. Some people can be pretty choosy about their sticks, but in a competition with that many people, who wouldn't be? Besides, they paid one whole British pound to enter this thing -- they'd better get their money's worth.
"I can't help feeling I'm throwing my money away."
The game is organized when people line up in heats on the bridge, because there's probably some sort of fire code regulations on how many people can run around on a bridge at the same time carrying kindling. At the go, contestants drop their sticks and rush to the other side of the bridge to see if their stick-dropping prowess was enough to assure victory.
But when competition is this huge for a prize no more than a gold medal and a stuffed Pooh bear, it shouldn't surprise you that some rules had to be laid out. But why? Who would want to sabotage such an event?
"My stick fires little torpedoes to sink other sticks."
Well, a man named Ben Schott actually wrote a book on Pooh Sticks strategy. He goes over different "drop zones" that can impact velocity and help you win. Schott's willingness to put this type of secret out in the open actually caused the Oxford Rotary Club (who host the event) to set up that (admittedly vague) set of rules -- the stick has to be made of wood, you must drop instead of throw it, all hands must be held at the same height, etc. So try to contain your ruthless lust for glory at any cost, at least for the few seconds it takes you to drop a painted stick into the river.
Sweep the leg, Beatrice!