We all know the most famous kinds of competition—football, basketball, who can touch the ceiling with the highest jump, etc. But what about competitive events that require making a fool of yourself, or the pure willingness to risk your life entirely? Don't worry: If you can think of it, there's a competition for it. 

Wingsuit Flying: Be A Squirrel, And Risk Death

By all means a sport reserved for adrenaline junkies, wingsuit flying is not your average spontaneous activity. Dangerous at its very core, the aerial sport is famous for its high risk of death and injury, aka a one-hundred percent avoidable problem if you just agree never to give a wingsuit a try.

A lot can go wrong when you try flying with a wingsuit. The parachute may twist right when you're about to land. You might spin uncontrollably. Maybe you'll crash into the aircraft’s tail as soon as you jump. The key to surviving is ultimate trust in yourself, and by "key," we mean, "actually, this is by no means enough to keep you alive" because unless you actually have the skill to fly the suit, you will die, so with most wingsuits costing a minimum of $1,200, you may have just invested in your demise. 

Wingsuit Flying over fields at Langar Airfield (Parachute/Skydive School) in the UK.

Wingsuiting/Wiki Commons

But what a way to go.

Heavy practice involves multiple freefall skydives (hundreds is typically recommended), along with nailing the operation of a parachute landing. As suits have become increasingly stronger thanks to fabric tech, fliers can descend from higher elevations. A true pilot must fundamentally become one with the sky. 

For committed athletes, the FAI World Cup of Wingsuit Performance Flying is a test of a pilot’s speed, distance, and timing. These three components are meshed into a single result, measuring, as the competition deems it, “best lift, least drag and best glide ratio.” Started in 2015, the event is formatted into three individual skydives, each made to focus on those factors. See below for yourself, in what appears to be a strange aerodynamic supervillain face off, until you realize it’s an incredible act of agility: 

Extreme Ironing

Too lazy to iron your clothes? Extreme ironing competitors wish they could say the same. When you’ve ironed in every possible place you can imagine (including shark-infested waters) there aren’t many threats a wrinkled shirt can pose. 

To spice things up, why not flirt with disaster while doing your least favorite pastime? Canoeing, skying, skydiving, bungee jumping, and hiking mountains are just some preferred challenges competitors willingly choose to face while smoothing the crinkles of their underwear. 

Underwater extreme ironing in Florida

highlander411/Wiki Commons

It's called underwear because you iron it underwater, duh. 

The concept of ironing at an extreme level is believed to have been Tony Hiam’s idea in 1980, although much debate exists around the origin, some noting that Phil Shaw of Leicester, England invented it in 1997. The game went international, and the Extreme Ironing World Championships formed in the early 2000s. Each installment of the games offers five categories of ironing, including ironing in trees, performing in rapidly coursing waters, and scaling walls to de-wrinkle their clothes. There is also a city category, where participants must iron in or on a non-functioning vehicle, and a freestyle section for contestants to choose their own danger. 

Extreme Ironing on Rivelin Needle. Rivelin Rocks, United Kingdom

Theredrocket/Wiki Commons

"I'll just iron while falling off this cliff, to my death."

The most important criterion for judging is not whether you stay alive but simply that the articles of clothing are seamlessly ironed. Never mind the extremity of the location a contestant is in—if the blouse has a crease, then the objective is lost. No matter how high up in between that cliff you managed to squeeze into, no one will care. You may not take home one of three medals, but at least you will have attempted to defeat the most boring task ever.

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Charming Earthworms From The Ground:

If worms make you squeamish, perhaps you’d better rethink entering the World Worm-Charming Championships. At an elementary school in Willaston, a small village in England, competitors from around the globe aim to claim the new record for most worms extracted from the earth (later placed back in nature of course). So far, a ten year-old girl holds the world record, having collected 567 worms in 2009. 

Fishermen created the competition in 1980 out of boredom. How does it work? Competitors are given a small plot of land measuring three meters in length and width and aim to attract as many worms from the ground as possible using a range of noises and equipment. Teams consist of three players, one called a Charmerer, another a Pickerer, and lastly, the Counterer. Evidently rules of grammar do not apply in this competition, but other odd rules seem very much in play. 

One commonly used method is to send vibrations underground by wiggling a pitchfork for several minutes. Birds supposedly use a similar patter with their feet when they seek lunch. As worms are attracted to the sound of rain, some contestants bring buckets to recreate the clattering noise. Projecting the soundscape through loudspeakers above ground has also been a contestant favorite, and don’t forget tap dancing while playing the Star Wars theme song, because worms are all over that.

Wetting the ground using sugar water, beer, or urine has been proven a winning method as well. No toxic things are allowed into the ground, and anyone using a liquid must gulp it before the competition in front of the judge, nicknamed “the worm master.” Digging is not permitted as that would clearly fasten the process of finding worms for any worm charmer, nor can you bring your own worms hidden in your pants. A worm charmer must work for their final prize: a worm trophy, of course. 

Who Can Santa Claus The Hardest?

Think you’d be good at encompassing the athleticism only Santa Claus has proven possible? Climbing faux “chimneys” while carrying “gifts," all in full Santa costume is just the beginning for ClauWau, also known as the World Santa Championship, dedicated to the reenactment of what Santa would do on Christmas Eve. Going through the motions of the man’s once-a-year routine proves harder than you’d think. It’s not all eating leftover cookies and milk. 

Since the year 2000, this competition has been an annual Swiss highlight for those hoping to win the title of “Santa Claus World Champion.” Held at the Samnaun ski resort in Switzerland, the event is also an initiation of the opening of the sport season. Those participating can expect to be judged for their chimney climbing while carrying boxes of presents, and Christmas tree decorating skills, along with the challenges of a reindeer rodeo, rope-pulling section, and e-snowmobile rally. 

More than anything, competitors must have stellar physical endurance to make happen what the legendary Claus can do in one marvelous span of 24 hours. Anyone in the world can participate. Up to four people fully disguised in Santa costumes may win the title over a course of 48 hours, going home with cash prizes. If you win, you can return to your local mall with pride, and the entire building is now legally yours.  

Foot Racing Through The Burning Desert

Have you always dreamed of running a marathon but want to make it needlessly harder than it already is? You may want to consider participating in the Marathon de Sables. Alternatively, if you're sane, maybe you don't want to consider participating in the Marathon de Sables.

It's five and a half times the length of a regular marathon. What could make it worse? Maybe it’s the 130 degree heat (56 Celsius) of the desert pounding into your lungs, or maybe it's that you have to bear this heat for seven days straight.  

Past contestants of this race in the Moroccan Sahara have described the competition as “an utter war zone,” and the event has been called out for its lack of attention to its participants, particularly in the last couple years as temperatures soared. Heat stroke and death have resulted from this risky way to spend one’s time—that is if you make it till the end, as most runners abandon the task. 

For safety, the event has a medical team on standby, some in helicopters hovering near runners suffering from almost every ailment imaginable,” some in dune-proof vehicles looking out for injuries. Kind of makes you wonder why an event with many predicted health hurdles should happen at all … but hey, this threatening pastime has a first place prize of $25,000 that you can fight your life for.  

Breakdancing With Pizza Dough

You're an outcast who happens to love pizza, so maybe the sport of Pizza Acrobatics is for you. For those who can sort-of dance and manage to keep a sheet of raw dough flying through the air simultaneously, competition is the most logical next step. One important requirement? You must be involved in the industry by working in or representing a pizzeria. You cannot just throw frozen pies into your oven on a lazy Saturday and call yourself a pizza acrobat. 

Two major pizza tossing events are held annually where contestants compete for the title of “master dough tosser” and win prize money. Competitors have a chance to participate in the World Pizza Championships in the province of Parma, Italy, or the World Pizza Games at the Pizza Expo of Las Vegas.

Contestants travel from around the world, and arrive with a prepared two to three minute routine. Think flipping dough in the air is enough? Think again. Entertainment lives symbiotically with this craft; the participants must administer incredible skill and borderline wizardry to impress the judges. Take for example a past contestant and famous pizza man Nick Diesslin, appearing in this vibey, futuristic parking lot performance to deliver unmatched dough-tossing: 

Finesse and agility are not taken lightly, and contestants must showcase their ability to transition smoothly into their next move, all while making sure the dough’s shape remains intact and holes don’t form. Dropping the dough to the floor, of course, is the worst possible sin, and results in your immediate excommunication from the church of mozerella. 

Many contestants bring their own dough, though the competitions do provide some. High-gluten and high-protein flour can make the dough better to work with, according to an interview with 13-time World Pizza champion Tony Gemignani, perhaps the slickest pizza athlete the world has known thus far. Being a master instructor at the International School of Pizza is just one title he holds. Having won two Guinness World Records for most across-the-shoulder rolls in half a minute, the acrobat even has a dough trick named after him. Gemignani was told he was no longer able to compete, probably due to the inevitability of him winning over and over again. The pizza champion had to be stopped. But the competition, like many other odd competitive events, lives on. 

For more of Oona’s sarcasm and attempted wit, visit her website oonaoffthecuff.com

Top image: Theredrocket/Wiki Commons

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