5 Dumb Hobbies You Won't Believe Have World Championships
Boredom: We've all been there. From "99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall" to "The License Plate Game," people have sought out ways to pass the monotony when life slows down. Little did we realize that these pointless time wasters were, for some, the subject of a years-long pursuit of excellence. Which is why people started organizing things like ...
Rock Paper Scissors World Championships
Rock Paper Scissors was something we all did as kids to decide everything from who got the last cookie to who had to sit next to the creepy old person when there were no more seats at the movies. Who knew that if you practiced enough, you could make it to the big leagues? Or that there even was such a thing?
Thank God that guy has a helmet.
Sure, you can't quit your day job to do this, but you can make 10 grand. That's thanks to the World RPS Society (which, to everyone's surprise, actually exists) and a sponsorship from Yahoo!, who turned this timeless and pointless alternative to coin-flipping into a major world competition with a $10,000 prize for the winner.
Well, this totally explains how Yahoo! stays relevant.
That picture is of 2008 winner Monica Martinez, who outlasted over 700 other competitors over the course of nearly 24 straight hours. Even as the competition kept stiffening and people began losing stamina (and, presumably, their sanity), Monica kept winning. By the end, she'd built up a following in the (surprisingly enthusiastic for 2 a.m.) crowd like Rocky at the end of Rocky IV, the crowd embracing the madness and cheering her on as she went into her final match. Which, despite her opponent's goofy hat, was pretty intense. Watch the clip of her final showdown, and you tell us how serious things were:
While Martinez claims she entered mostly for the hell of it, there is very much a science to the whole thing -- there are people who do legitimate studies on Rock Paper Scissors, and the World RPS Society has actually published a book on how to beat anyone at the game. And out of the kindness of the authors' hearts, they have published some free sample techniques on their website on how to psychologically read your opponent, such as "Rock is for rookies" and "When all else fails, go with paper." Both of which only work if your opponent hasn't also read those tips, in which case you'll both wind up endlessly throwing out paper for round after round, for days, until one of you collapses from exhaustion or suddenly grasps the inherent meaninglessness of human life.
That guy on the right just got it.
Paper Airplane Throwing
Pretty much every kid can craft a paper airplane by age 10 or so, and by middle school we all knew at least one kid who could make an amazing one. Yours could sail across the classroom, but he'd have some intricate contraption with weird wings that could fly all the way across the gym. Sadly, that didn't even make him cool in middle school.
But, we've got good news for the master paper plane engineers of the world: The Red Bull Paper Wings competition.
STAND THE HELL BACK.
Yep, it's a worldwide paper airplane throwing contest with a variety of divisions competing for airtime, distance and aerobatics. It has qualifiers all over the world, and the finals are held in that huge hangar in Austria pictured above.
And like with any huge sport, the rules are both strict and exhaustive. Contests have to be held indoors; planes have to be made out of the official, provided paper; and if you cross the foul line at any point during the throw or the plane's flight, it constitutes a foul. For the longest airtime division, you aren't allowed to get a running start or use ramps or ramplike devices (presumably this means that in the distance division, you can use all the ramps you want).
Telekinesis is fine.
But don't let us disparage the talent of the people involved; here's a video from one of the previous competitions, and some of the stuff from the aerobatics division in particular is batshit crazy:
Aside from the fact that paper cuts probably run rampant, people have actually injured themselves training for this contest. Leonard Ang, one of the competitors from Brazil, put so much effort into doing what he refers to as "extensive training" that he injured his arm. It's no surprise when you see these guys in action:
His arm flew off and broke the world record.
Just how hard do you have to be throwing a piece of paper to injure yourself? Long enough to keep a plane in the air for 11.66 seconds, apparently, which is what won the airtime division for Ang. If that doesn't sound like a long time, make a paper airplane and see if you can get it to stay aloft for more than even five seconds -- we bet you can't. You need to leave that shit to the pros.
This guy apparently took an airplane to the eyeball at some point.
StareMaster Staring Contests
We mocked Rock Paper Scissors a moment ago, but at least there is some element of skill and strategy there. But a staring contest? Getting good at staring at another person doesn't aid you in any other area of life, and we're frankly not even sure what skill it's testing. How long you can keep the liquid on your eyeballs from evaporating? So while the rules can vary, the result does not -- any time you see two people engaged in a staring contest, trust us, both of them lost.
But once again, there are hardcore staring masters out there who compete in high-level showdowns with the dedication of a disciplined Olympic athlete.
"Next is the Sideburns Distraction round."
Behold StareMaster, which quickly grew from a sarcastic bar joke into a real-deal traveling live action game show shortly after its inception in 2002. Before it closed up shop, it spawned an international tour across the U.S., Japan and the United Kingdom, drew the participation of Chloe Sevigny, Phantom Planet and Maroon 5, and was filmed for a full-on documentary.
Those rules were as follows: For the first two minutes, blinking was allowed, but laughing, crying, talking, smiling, showing teeth, making sudden movements, touching, coughing, calling time-out, sneezing, tongue-showing, snorting and fluttering were not. Survive for two minutes and you were suddenly thrust into the "dry-eye death phase" in which blinking was also banned and audience presence was amplified. And hopefully they had somebody blast the contestants' eyes with pressurized air, like they do at the eye doctor.
We're pretty sure this stare is illegal, both in StareMasters and real life.
Besides its booming soundtrack featuring tunes like "Eye of the Tiger" and "Can't Take My Eyes Off of You," each StareMaster face-off also took place under dramatic mood lighting with two official referees monitoring the motionless mayhem and multiple oversized video screens broadcasting close-up camera views of the participants' eyes to the audience.
Thirty seconds of staring at a camera makes anyone look like the bad guy in a horror movie.
Many competitors admitted to practicing before their matches, including some who went so far as to stare at a camera flashbulb as part of their ridiculous pre-stare routine, while rumors of substantial cannabis use among participants, as if you didn't already secretly suspect it, were rampant.
"Can the Group B participants please stop staring at the buffet tables? They've won."
Look, get back to us in a million years or so, after humans have evolved to have heat vision like Superman. Get two people trying to set each other's faces on fire, each match ends with one contestant looking like Ghost Rider? We'd watch that.
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?
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!