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 Niche Sports that Are Slowly Capturing the World’s Attention 

people cheese rolling

By Angela Kazmierczak 

To conceal dark circles from binge-watching “The Office” this pandemic, many have turned to hobbies. If by chance there are people still scouting for a hobby or are down for some outside-the-box activities, you’re in good company. Not everyone loves to paint, throw hoops or knit chunky wool socks after all, so here are some bizarre sports to help spruce things up and to find something to do post-pandemic.

Extreme Ironing 

Photo via Wiki

This one just might make mom and dad proud or inspire people to fire their ironers when in a pinch. Extreme ironing is a sport where climbers lug around a board and battery-powered ironer to the top of a mountain or some remote location. Climber Phil Shaw invented the sport in 1997 during a moment of indecision. 

Finding himself torn between ironing inside the house or climbing a mountain, Shaw compromised by ironing his shirts and pants in the backyard. It was at that moment he thought, why not combine the two and call it a sport? That is climbing and ironing. Running a recruitment campaign in New Zealand, South Africa, Australia and the United States for the sport, Shaw and other thrill-seekers founded the activity in 2002. Yearly World Championships are now being held. 

In case someone was wondering, extreme ironing has since evolved, and it involves anything in-between, including freediving to the depths of the ocean or in a pool. 

Today, Shaw can be found either pressing a long-sleeve shirt or campaigning for ironing in the Olympic games.

Gloucester’s Cheese Rolling Event 

Photo via Sky News

Only in the movies do hundreds of people chase after a block of provolone cheese that’s rolling down a bumpy hill. Well, actually, I stand corrected. It’s a block of authentic, rich-tasting Gloucester cheese, and it’s a recipe passed down by its residents since 1498.

What first began as a festive spring event in 1643, in the town of Gloucester, located in the West of England, has since grown into a race loved by thousands of people. In fact, the 2018 victor was Canadian Mark Kit, then 21, from Toronto, Canada. 

To play this extreme sport, racers mimic how a block of Gloucester cheese rolls down a 45 degree slope before, at the opportune moment, pouncing for it. At the bottom of the hill in the deep grass is where contestants jump to snatch the cheese like a big mouse. That lucky catch then merits a block of the town’s signature cheese and bragging rights. 

A word of caution though, with the inertia behind the spinning block of cheese, some real damage can happen.

Chess Boxing 

Photo via Awakening Fighters

Chess boxing, yet another niche sport, was invented in 1992 by French comic writer and artist, Enki Bilal. While the sport was intended for his sci-fi graphic book alone, the activity would catch on ten years later. 

In fact, after its first debut in Berlin, in 2003, the sport has attracted a variety of people—from MMA fighters to carpenters to photographers. One frequent player includes the famous boxer, filmmaker and photographer, Andrew McGregor, from Los Angeles, California. 

To play this game, players alternate between three minutes of intense swinging and punching (boxing) to three minutes of mentally stimulating chess playing. Players combat for a total of 11 rounds or until the last woman or man stands or is checkmated. It’s crucial that a person be equally good at boxing and chess, as it’s a sport that requires physical stamina and mental strength. 

If any of these sports are of interest, there are events and championships being hosted around the world that can be joined. The world is your ironing board.

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