Here’s a new sport…

Published 12:00 am Thursday, April 13, 2006

I was watching the morning news this week when I saw a story about the Rock Paper Scissors World Championship. I found it hard to believe that this children’s game of deciding who goes first has a competition on the world stage.

It got me wondering what other unusual sports were played.

A quick internet search uncovered an amazing array of unusual sports for people of all ages and ability levels.

Here is a quick overview of just a few sports that haven’t found their way to the Roanoke Chowan area.

Birling contests are also known as log rolling.

Two contestants spin a floating log rapidly with their feet.

The contestants stop the log suddenly and reverse motion, trying to throw their opponent off the log.

Falling off the log counts as a fall.

The first person to fall two out of three times loses.

Contestants begin on logs 15 inches in diameter.

As the competition continues, the logs get smaller.

Competitors must wear special calked (spiked) shoes.

Birling originated in the 1800’s in the lumberjack camps in New England.

Competitions still flourish in lumberjack shows in the U.S.A. and Canada.

In ice boating, also called ice-yachting, small speedy boats race on ice over a three-mile course.

The boats look like sail boats, range in size from 16-20 feet long and hold two people in a sitting position.

The long hull is similar to an early airplane.

Under the hull are two sled runners attached to the cross piece.

The boat can travel up to 100 miles per hour and is typically made of aluminum or fiberglass.

There is a third runner for steering fastened to the front of the hull.

Jousting tournaments started in France around the 11th century.

Jousting was a medieval sport which consisted of two horses charging at each other with each rider holding a sharp lance.

The object of jousting was to knock your opponent off their horse.

If a jouster splintered 3 lances it was his choice to either make the joust a draw or to fight on the ground.

The joust could last for days because all knights would compete.

The armor that the jouster wore weighed about 50 lbs.

Anyone was allowed to enter a jousting tournament if they had a suit of armor, a horse, a sword, and a shield.

Jai alai is one of the world’s fastest sports.

Jai alai is played in a theater-like building called a fronton.

The curved wicker basket is called a cesta.

The ball used to play is called a pelota.

The players wear helmets, sneakers, white pants with a red or blue stripe, and white or colored shirts bearing numbers.

You can play 1 on 1 (single matches) or 2 on 2 (double matches).

Antonia Banderas brought the glamour of swordfighting to the big screen in Zorro.

If you secretly harbor a desire to slash letters in the air, fencing may be for you.

You can learn to fight with three different types of swords, and the outfit reminds me of something from the Star Wars movies.

Climbing and abseiling may be to your liking if you like the view of the outdoors from the side of a rock wall.

Many climbers start off on an indoor wall and work their way up to scaling a mountain.

I have no personal experience with this although I did see a Chris O’Donnell movie about mountain climbers trapped on a snowy mountain top.

Unlike people that have slept at Holiday Inns, this does not make me a mountain climber.

There are other sports we could talk about including synchronized swimming (which is an Olympic sport), hang gliding and paragliding.

However, I’d like to end this column with some sports featured in the Rural Olympics in India.

This three-day long event featured a bike jumping cow and a man pulling a tractor with his teeth (a predecessor to the strong man contests maybe?).

The most unusual sport is the bullock-cart race.

In this event the competitor stands on the back of a cart and holds on to two young bulls in a race for the finish line.

The winner earns the respect of his countrymen for the next year.

This just goes to show that anything can be a sport.

So grab your logs and head to the Chowan.

I’ll Rock Paper Scissors to see who goes first.

Heather Odom can be reached at