Powerbocking Girl by Josef Ženčák

3 Interesting Sports You Probably Don’t Know About

3 Interesting Sports You Probably Don’t Know About

Many people prefer football, tennis, badminton, hockey, and such. However, there are actually lots of interesting sports that aren’t quite so popular. You may never think of catching fish with your bare hands or throwing delicious pudding miles away as sports (see part 2), but those interesting and unique sports actually exist in some parts of the world and have been played for decades. Here are three interesting and unique sports you probably do not know about.

Noodling

Despite its name, this sport has nothing to do with noodles or pasta. The term noodling refers to the practice of catching fish (mostly, catfish) using your bare hands. It is played/ practiced around fallen trees, submerged logs, mud banks, and/or under rocks where catfish usually lay their eggs and mostly, in the southern United States, though different regions may have a different name for the sport. Although the term noodling is primarily used to refer to the catching of flathead catfish, “noodling” can also be used for all hand fishing methods, regardless of the species of the fish. I guess no one practicing noodling ever says, “Hand me the bait.” Talk about your unconventional fishing techniques!

The general concept of noodling is very simple. Hold your arm underwater inside a catfish hole and let the fish bite your hand. Hmmm…

But I’m getting ahead of myself. The perfect spot is in shallow water with submerged structures (fallen trees, submerged logs, mud banks, and/or under rocks) where catfish tend to spawn and their young mature. The next step is to poke the hole with a stick to see if the hole is a home for fish or other animals, such as snakes, turtles, or even alligators. If it’s a fish hole, you can go ahead and jam your hand into the hole. If not, for god’s sake, move on, man, quickly! See ya later, alligator.

Most noodlers work in pairs, one as a noodler and the other as a spotter. Spotters help noodlers bring the catfish in and keep an eye out for non-fish critters (read, predators). As you may imagine, noodlers can get hurt in this sport, if not by non-fish predators, by getting bites, cuts, and scrapes that get infected. It’s not unheard of to lose a finger. Also, noodling can adversely affect the fish population, so noodling is considered illegal in some states. In some form or another, noodling is legal in Alabama, North Carolina, Georgia, Tennessee, Illinois, Kansas, Oklahoma, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Wisconsin, Mississippi, Arkansas, South Carolina, and more recently, Texas.

Ssireum

Blue takes it! The 28th Gyeongju Citizens’ Athletics Festival, Hwangseong Park, South Korea; Photo by Grete Howard

When one thinks of wrestling, visions of WWE and MMA fighters or sumo wrestlers come to mind, but Ssireum is different. It’s a style of folk wrestling that originated and is played in Korea with belts and sand. While you won’t see blood-thirsty fighters or massive guys slapping each other, it’s no less exciting.

For many centuries, from the 4th century through the present, Ssireum has been a popular sport of the Korean people, including Korean royalty. It’s even made the news recently as the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and the Republic of Korea jointly applied for Ssireum to be inscribed by the Intergovernmental Committee for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Unesco, which application was granted on November 26, 2018.

The main objective of the sport is familiar- to force some part of the opponent’s body to the ground and as in greco-roman or freestyle wrestling, striking your opponent is disallowed, but there are some central differences from wrestling as we know it.

The match begins in the center of a ring of mounded sand approximately 23 feet in diameter. Each wrestler wears a belt, called a “satba” in Korean, around his or her waist and right thigh. The belt around the right thigh helps each opponent to get a grip for takedowns. The wrestlers get on their knees in grappling position holding each other’s satba to begin the round and then, when both wrestlers rise simultaneously from the original position, the “fight” begins. When one wrestler forces the other’s knee or upper body part to the ground, that wrestler has won that particular round. Pushing your opponent outside the ring only restarts the match and the winner of the match bests his opponent twice out of three rounds.

While Ssireum’s popularity is declining due to the increased interest in Mixed Martial Arts fighting, it’s still hugely popular in Korea, especially in Uiseong, Korea, a small town in the Gyeongbuk province that’s renowned for its garlic (especially for its “Garlic Girls”, the women’s curling silver medalists at the 2018 Winter Olympics). Go Garlic Girls!

Ok, back to Ssireum. Don’t miss seeing a Ssireum match. Competitions are held regularly in Uiseong, but during every Chuseok (a major harvest festival and a three-day holiday in the Koreas celebrated on the 15th day of the 8th month of the lunar calendar on the full moon, or in 2019, September 12th-14th), nationwide matches are prevalent and festive!

Powerbocking

Powerbocking Girl by Josef Ženčák
Powerbocking Girl by Josef Ženčák

In the world of extreme sports, powerbocking (or jumping stilts) is one of the best (endorsed heavily by Tigger, I would think). This extreme sport originated in Germany and was most recently in the world’s spotlight during Beijing’s closing ceremony in the 2008 Olympic Summer Games.

Powerbockers, wearing spring-loaded, aluminum stilts that attach to their shoes, jump, run, and perform fantastic acrobatics. The rider catapults into the air (not unlike using a pogo stick) and performs aero-feats between 3 and 6 feet high. If you’ve ever wanted to run at 20 mph, don a pair of these beauties.

Powerbocking by Derek Yu
Powerbocking by Derek Yu

While powerbocking may look absolutely safe, it never hurts to take the necessary precautions, like wearing a helmet along with elbow and knee pads, and getting an experienced instructor if you’ve never powerbocked before.

If you’d like to take in a couple of professional competitions and see some awe-inspiring moves, check out the Nancy Power Days competition and the Riser Winter Cup, both in France.

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