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London’s top ten oddball sports

Posted at 3:30 pm, July 7, 2013 in Fun London
London's top ten oddball sports, Chess boxing


Wimbledon might nearly be over but don’t worry, you’ll live. Here’s a few more ‘out there’ sports to try.

1. Chess boxing
Former world heavyweight champ Lennox Lewis was a chess fan, but actually combining five rounds of boxing with six rounds of chess is a supreme mental and physical test for anyone. In London last year, the Royal Albert Hall hosted a contest. It is, apparently, popular with City traders, so if you want to punch a banker (or play one at chess), this is your chance.

2. Octopush

London's top ten oddball sports, Octopush

Perhaps not the greatest spectator sport, underwater hockey was invented in the 1950s by subaqua divers. Players use a small stick to push a 1.2kg puck – the ‘squid’ – along the floor of a pool into the other team’s goal. The skill is judging when to dive, tackle an opponent and return to the surface for air and to see if anyone’s still watching. Anyone? Hello?

3. Rugby netball

The egg-chaser’s pursuit is given a unique twist – at each end of the pitch are posts 11′ 6″ from the ground with a hoop and net attached. The aim is to tussle for possession, rugby-style, then hoist the ball aloft, netball-style. This bizarre hybrid is only played on Clapham Common, where it was invented at the turn of the twentieth century as a way of keeping troops stationed there during the Boer War away from the temptations of the local pubs. Who’s up for a pint?

4. Mobile phone throwing

Who hasn’t wanted to fling their portable communication device into a pond when it drops a call? Okay, well we have. What began in 2000 as a bit of Finnish fundraising fun now has its own world championship, and last year, Londoner Chris Hughff – whose surname is the sort of noise you might make as you shotput a battered Nokia into a lake – set a record of 102 metres. His prize: a new phone. The UK champs, usually held in Battersea, are on hold, but organisers are considering a 2014 resumption. How about adding tablet tossing? Or BlackBerry bashing? (Oh, we have that already…)

5. Disc golf 

Got a Frisbee lurking in the back of a cupboard. Like golf courses but want to avoid the argyll sock brigade? Then try disc golf, where you aim to get your plastic disc into a series of metal baskets with the fewest throws. Lloyd Park in Croydon has London’s only purpose-built course. It’s great, and you don’t have to avoid the club bore afterwords.

6. Horseball

This game draws on basketball and rugby but you have to pass, shoot and score while staying on board 400kg of galloping thoroughbred. Lee Valley Riding Centre runs sessions for anyone who can ride at a canter. Animal rights legislation makes it unlikely that the original Argentinian version will be revived, since it used a live duck instead of a ball…

7. Ice climbing

London’s lack of Alpine landscapes is no deterrent to the crampon-and-ice-axe crew who flock to Ellis Brigham’s Covent Garden store. Vertical Chill is an eight-metre climbing wall in a refrigerated unit which starts in the basement and cuts through the ground floor, where there are viewing windows. It’s around -7C inside, cold enough for any mad-eyed human icepick.

8. Indoor skydiving

You don’t need a plane to get high. Though you’re actually just a few metres above the ground in a vertical wind tunnel, you still require all the gear: helmet, goggles, earplugs, sick-bag – hopefully not the sick-bag – and a safety briefing before you’re through the hatch and headfirst into a 180mph gale. You can’t help but smile! Partly because you’re flying, mainly because your face is being blown past your ears.

9. Street luge

You’ve watched the original in the Winter Olympics – the one where participants lie on their back on a glorified tea-tray, point it downhill and pray they’re not hurtling into oblivion. Californian skateboarders added wheels to a longboard to create their version, a terrifying beast capable of 80mph – when your bum is only an inch off the tarmac, it feels much, much faster. Potholes are a street luger’s nightmare – which rules out most London roads.

10. Beach volleybowler

The sight of scantily clad athletes bouncing their balls on Horse Guards Parade was one of the highlights of last year’s Olympics. This more recherché version is played in a bowler hat, and skimpy swimwear is definitely not allowed. It’s one of the new sports in the ninth Chap Olympiad, taking place on July 13 in Bedford Square Gardens, along with Tug of Moustache and Butler Racing. Classy…

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