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Board Shoe Racing – China’s Bizarre Traditional Sport

Board shoe racing is the traditional sport of the Zhuang people of China’s Gunaxi province, a unique discipline that has three people sharing the same “shoes”, which requires perfect coordination and concentration.

Board shoe racing can be traced back to the Ming Dynasty, when legend has it that a famous heroine of the Xhuang people used it as a way to train soldiers against invading Japanese pirates. The legendary Mrs. Wa used long pieces of wood to teach the men to march together in perfect synchronization, which greatly improved their combat qualities and boosted their fighting spirit, helping them repel the invaders. The traditional sport has been passed on from generation to generation since then.

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The Impossible Climb – No Dirt Bike Has Ever Made It Atop This Notorious Hillside

The Andler Hillclimb is an annual dirt bike competition that has dirt bikers from around Europe try to reach the top of a treacherous hillside course in Belgium. It’s been held every year for the last two decades, but so far no one has been able to reach the top.

The so-called “impossible climb”, starts out as rough gravel and then switches over to a washboard of rough cliff face designed to throw riders off and send them and their bikes tumbling back down to the base of the hill. It’s not the angle of attack that’s the problem, according to most riders, but the sudden change of ride surface that makes keeping control of the bike and reaching the top so damn hard. Some fly off their bike early during the climb, while others get painfully close the the finish line, but in the end they all succumb to the power of gravity before reaching their goal.

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Festival of Exploding Hammers Ushers in Lent with a Bang

Every February, on the day before Lent, the small Mexican town of San Juan de la Vega honors its namesake saint with a loud tradition that has come to be known as the Festival of Exploding Hammers.

The origins of this bombastic festival are shrouded in mystery. According to one local story, Juan de la Vega, a wealthy miner and rancher, was aided by San Juan Bautista (Saint John the Baptist) to recover gold stolen by bandits and residents came up with the exploding hammers to loudly commemorate their victory over the outlaws. Another story claims that “San Juanito” the patron saint of the town, was an outlaw himself, a sort of Mexican Robin Hood who stole from the rich and gave to the poor, and that the today’s celebration is a reenactment of the fight between San Juanito and the local dons. Whatever the real origin may be, the explosive tradition is so popular in San Juan de la Vega that locals will risk life and limb to keep it going.

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German Company Uses Super-Strong Glue to Suspend 17.5-Tonne Truck in the Air for an Hour

DELO, a small German company specializing in industrial adhesives, recently set a new Guinness Record after successfully suspending a 17-tonne-truck in the air for an hour using only super-strong glue.

In an attempt to show that it produces the world’s strongest adhesives, Bavaria-based company DELO set out to lift a 17.5 tonne truck one meter above ground using only 3 grams of a very strong glue developed specifically for this event. They used an industrial crane and four aluminum cylinders with a cover surface of of 3.5 cm (the diameter of a standard soda can) bonded to the wheels of the truck with a few drops of high-temperature-resistant DELO MONOPOX adhesive. The truck hung in the air for a full hour, thus breaking the previous record of 16.09 tonnes.

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Ingenious Sprinkler System Turns Entire Japanese Hamlet into a Water Fountain

Kayabuki no Sato, a small hamlet in Kyoto famous for its traditional thatched roof houses, features a concealed sprinkler system that turns the whole place into a water fountain.

Known as Miyama’s Thatched Village, Kayabuki no Sato has a higher percentage of thatched roof farmhouses than any other place in Japan. This makes it very popular with tourists, who love walking among the over 40 traditional thatched roof abodes and even spending the night in one of them, but also very vulnerable to fire. Local officials realized this in the year 2000, when a fire burned down the archive center, so apart from asking people to be vigilant at all times, they decided to install a special sprinkler system to cover the whole hamlet. They test it twice a year, usually in May and December, and people from all over Japan and beyond come to see the powerful sprinklers in action.

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Belgian Town Hosts Wacky Seagull Screeching Championship

Aspiring seagull imitators from all over Europe recently gathered in the Belgian town of Adinkerke to take part in the first European Gull Screeching Championship.

The wacky event took place in a local pub and required competitors to channel their inner gull, both vocally and physically. While the emphasis of the competition was on the sound produced by participants, with a maximum of 15 points being awarded for the best screeching sounds, participants could also score up to 5 points by putting on a proper performance. Some just flapped their arms in a gull-like manner, others wore seagull-style beaks on top of their heads, and a few actually wore gull costumes to impress the judges. It all sounds silly, but the Gull Screeching Championship actually has a serious goal.

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Russian City Hosts Painful Face-Slapping Championship

The Russian city of Krasknoyask recently hosted the country’s first ever amateur face-slapping championship, which had participants slap each other across the face until one of them got knocked out.

The controversial event was held during the Siberian Power Show, a popular sports show held in Krasnoyarsk on March 16 and 17. A similar competition took place last year, in Moscow, but it featured only professional athletes competing for the unofficial title of most heavy-handed face slapper. This time, organizers decided to give amateurs the chance to prove themselves, so anyone willing to engage in some manly face slapping was invited to sign up. Most of the participants were just random guys who had come to attend the power show and decided to try something new. It’s fair to say that some of them didn’t know the world of pain they would be experiencing at the hands of a mountain of a man…

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Runners Compete in World’s Coldest Race at -52 Degrees Celsius

Sixteen brave runners recently gathered in the Russian village of Oymyakon, also known as the world’s pole of cold,  to compete in the coldest official race in history.

Oymyakon is the coldest permanently inhabited place on Earth, with temperatures constantly dropping to under -50 degrees Celsius in winter time. This place is so cold that a person’s unprotected face can suffer frostbite in a matter of seconds, and sometimes the mercury in thermometers freezes. Oymyakon can barely be called inhabitable, let alone suitable for a marathon, and yet at the beginning of this year, 16 runners gathered here to take part in a series of extreme races.

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Ban’ei – The World’s Slowest Horse Race

Horse races are usually all about speed, but in Ban’ei, a form of horse racing unique to the Japanese island of Hokkaidō, it’s strength and stamina that matter most.

Ban’ei race horses, also known as ‘banba’, are very different from the fast thoroughbreds we associate with horse racing. They can weigh up to 1,200 kilograms and are more than twice the size of the small dosanko horses native to Hokkaidō. These horses are crossbred descendants of workhorses imported from France and Belgium at the end of the 19th century to help farmers work their land, and are now considered a Japanese breed in their own right. Depending on their size, these strong animals can pull up to a ton of weight, and that’s exactly the kind of strength required to win the world’s slowest horse race.

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The Indian Village Where People Play with Live Scorpions

Most people wouldn’t dare touch a scorpion for all the money in the world, but in one small Indian village, people actually seek out the poisonous arachnids and put them on their faces, or eve in their mouths, as part of a worshiping ritual.

Every year, on Naga Panchami, when most of India worships the snake god, the people of Kandakoor, about 20 kilometers from Yadgir, in the state of Karnataka, worship their Scorpion Goddess, Kondammai. Men and women, children and the elderly, all queue to go up a nearby hill called Chellina Betta (Scorpion Hill) and reach an idol of Kondammai, to which they offer sarees, coconuts and oil, and pray for good health and prosperity. After this ritual is completed, everyone starts looking for scorpions to play with.

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Japanese Channel Their Anger at Annual Tea Table Flipping Contest

The Japanese are no strangers to unusual competitions, so I guess it makes sense that they’ve found a way to turn a rage-induced reaction like flipping a table into an annual contest.

On June 16, a shopping mall in Japan’s Iwata Prefecture hosted the 12th annual World Chabudai-Gaeshi Tournament, an offbeat competition where participants try to flip a small tea table as far as possible. The premise is pretty simple: anyone can sign up for the competition, from young children to the elderly, and the goal is to flip the small wooden tea table as hard as possible to send the fake food on top of it flying as far as possible. In fact, the winner is judged not by how far they flip the table, but how far a plastic fish set on top of it travels.

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Sweden Opens Fist Klingon Tourist Center in Our Part of the Galaxy

Star Trek Fans looking to brush up on their Klingon lore need not travel to distant worlds or even watch countless hours of their favorite sci-fi series. All they need to do is head to Stockholm, Sweden, where the first Klingon tourist center in Alpha Quadrant recently opened its gates to visitors.

Called “Visit Qo’noS” and hosted by Turteatern, an avant-garde theatre based in the Swedish capital, the world’s first Klingon tourist center is a place where fans of the ruthless alien race can learn about its history, take a virtual tour of their capital, First City, sample staples of Klingon cuisine like Gagh and blood wine, train in the deadly martial art Mok’bara, learn their fascinating language and even interact with actual Klingons.

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Frenchman Cycles from Paris to Moscow Without Moving an Inch to Set New World Record

53-year-old Pascal Pich, a legendary ultra-athlete with several endurance records to his name, is set to complete the longest, and at the same time shortest, race of his career – over 3,000 kilometers (the distance between Paris and Moscow) pedaled on a stationary bicycle.

“You have to be a little crazy to say ‘I will pedal for 6 days without moving'”, Pascal Pich says about his unusual challenge. But being a little crazy is exactly how he managed to become one of the world’s most acclaimed extreme athletes and set 10 endurance world records. So yes, cycling around 600 kilometers a day on a stationary bike with only 2-3 hours of sleep may sound crazy for anyone else, but not for him.

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The Annual Cow Dung Cake Battle of Kairuppala

Every year, the people of Kairuppala, a village in India’s Andhra Pradesh state, engage in an epic cow dung cake battle that often leaves dozens injured. They believe the tradition brings them good health and prosperity.

Legend has it that Lord Veerabhadra Swamy, a fearsome form of the Hindu god Shiva, and the Goddess Bhadrakhali fell in love and decided to marry. In order to tease his beloved, Veerabhadra Swamy declared that he did not want to marry anymore, which enraged Bhadrakhali and her clansmen, who decided to teach the deceitful groom a lesson by beating him with cow dung cakes. The other side retaliated, but the goofy battle ended in compromise and the much awaited celestial wedding. Today, the devotees of Kairuppala village celebrate their union by reenacting their mythical battle using the same unconventional weapons.

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Putting Faith in a Piece of Rope at Brazil’s Largest Religious Festival

Every year, in the second week of October, millions of Roman-Catholic devotees from all over Brazil descend on the city of Belem to attend Cirio de Nazaré, the country’s largest religious festival, and to touch a 400-meter-long piece of rope believed to have the power to heal the sick.

Cirio de Nazaré has been celebrated intermittently in Brazil since 1793. The event revolves around a small statue of Nossa Senhora de Nazaré (Our Lady of Nazareth), an artifact supposedly sculpted in Nazareth that is believed to have performed miracles in medieval Portugal, before being lost in Brazil. Legend has it that a cattleman found it in a canal during the 1700’s, but every time he took it out of the water, it would disappear, only to be found again in the original place it was discovered. The people of Belem believed that it was Our Lady’s wish to remain there, so they built a church there, which would later become today’s Nazaré Basilica.

The celebration lasts two weeks, but the climax of the event is on the first Sunday, when the small statue is taken from the city’s Catedral da Sé to the Nazaré Basilica, on a flower-bedecked carriage pulled by thousands of devotees. The night before the procession about 15.000 devotees queue in front of the cathedral to secure a place near the 400-meter-long piece of rope used to pull the carriage through the city. Men and women align on two separate lines, and by 10 a.m. on Sunday, the human density around the rope reaches an incredible 10 people per meter.

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