In the spirit of the Olympic and Paralympic Games, here is our A to Z of sports in the UK. Expect some popular sports – as well as some rather weird and wacky ones too.
A is for Archery.
Archery in the UK is organised around clubs, counties and regions. Clubs provide beginners with courses, and many run their own club competitions. The counties and regions run championship tournaments and provide routes for progression through coaching and squads. Archery GB is the National Governing Body. www.archerygb.org
B is for Bog Snorkelling.
Bog snorkelling started in 1976, and the first World Championship took place in 1985. Competitors wear snorkels and flippees, and wade through a water-filled trench cut through a peat bog. The winner is the person who goes through the trench twice in the shortest amount of time. The event takes place every August Bank Holiday in mid-Wales at the Waen Rhydd peat bog, near Llanwrtyd Wells, the UK’s smallest town. Richard Addis is the 2012 men’s champion, with a time of 1 min 26.97s. If you feel drawn to bog snorkelling, visit www.bogsnorkelling.com and enter the 2013 championship!
C is for Capoeira.
Capoeira is a Brazilian martial art that combines elements of dance and martial arts. It is known for its quick and complex moves, using mainly power, speed, and leverage to gain the upper hand. The objective is not to hurt or even connect with the other “player”, but rather to demonstrate agility by anticipating the other’s move. Visit www.londonschoolofcapoeira.com if you would like to find out more about this highly energetic, entertaining sport.
D is for Demolition Derby.
Made popular in the United States, this sport has now moved into the UK. You can have the pleasure of ramming your car into other cars with the purpose of destroying them! It’s like ‘Bumper Cars’ for adults, and the rules are simple: windows are removed and you are not allowed to purposefully ram the driver’s side of the vehicle.
E is for Eating.
While not as big in the UK as it is in the USA, eating competitions are springing up all over the place. If competitive eating sounds like a sport you could do, check out the Wookey Hole’s Big Eat, which takes place in Somerset or try your luck in the annual Dorset Stinging Nettle Eating Contest.
F is for Fire dancing.
Fire dancing is the art of combining movement with the manipulation of objects on fire. These objects normally include bundles of wicking that are soaked in fuel before getting ignited. The objects are then twirled, juggled and otherwise manipulated, often to music. Although not strictly a sport, it is a highly physical activity which requires enormous skill and dedication. Our guess is it won’t be long before it becomes a competitive sport. To sign up for it in London, visit www.fire-dancing.com/trainers/michal-kahn.php.
G is for Golf.
Golf had its start in England and is today one of the most popular sports in the UK. Scotland is generally considered the home of golf; it has more than 400 golf courses, the most important undoubtedly being St. Andrews. If you have thought about starting golf as a hobby, head over to www.golf4beginners.co.uk and find out everything you need to know about the game, the equipment and how to get started.
H is for Haggis Hurling.
Haggis hurling is a Scottish sport. As the name suggests, it involves the skilful throwing of haggis. After starting off as a joke at first, it has actually grown into a professional sport, judged on the basis of distance and accuracy. On top of that, a burst haggis is immediately disqualified, as the haggis must be fit to eat after landing! The world record for haggis hurling was set at 217 feet by Lorne Coltart at the Milngavie Highland Games on 11 June 2011.
I is for Ice Hockey.
Ice hockey is another sport which is gaining popularity in the UK. At present, the UK has the 15th highest number of players per country. The sport is known for its fast pace and physicality and is certainly not for sissies! If you think you have what it takes, visit www.britishicehockey.co.uk to find out more about the sport and how to get started.
J is for Juggling.
No, we’re not referring to the skill of managing your work, social life and family commitments, we mean actual juggling, a “sport” that is bigger in the UK than you might think. If you’re an amateur juggler looking to hone your skill, visit www.juggling.org/meetings/unit_ki.html and join a club near you.
K is for Karate.
Old school is back! Karate is still one of the most popular forms of martial art. It helps with fitness, balance, self-defense, discipline and strength. If the thought of racking up all those lovely coloured belts excites you, there are numerous karate clubs in the UK to choose from. Find one near you: www.englishkaratefederation.com.
L is for Lying.
In the 19th Century, a famous Cumbrian called Will Ritson was the popular publican who kept his customers enthralled with stories (or rather: very tall tales) of the folk heritage of the area.
In celebration of Will and his stories, the “World’s Biggest Liar” contest is held at the Bridge Inn in Santon Bridge every November, to award the title to the storyteller who is worthy of following in the footsteps of “Auld Will”. The contest consists of entrants telling “stories”. The best lie, told the most convincingly, wins.
M is for Marbles.
Think marbles is for schoolboys? Think again. The next British and World Marble Championship will be held in March 2013 at The Greyhound, in Tinsley Green. If you think you still have what it takes to win at marbles, visit www.greyhoundmarbles.com to find out more.
N is for Netball.
Undoubtedly the UK’s biggest female sport, netball is still huge and not exclusive to schoolgirls. England Netball is once again running their “Back to Netball” campaign for anyone wanting to get back into the sport, shed some unwanted kilos, get fit and have fun on the court. Since 2010, over 22,000 women have returned to the sport through Back to Netball. Visit www.englandnetball.co.uk/my-game/back-to-netball to find out more or to find a club near you.
O is for OzTag.
OzTag or MiniTag is a form of touch rugby where brightly coloured Velcro strips are attached to the players’ shorts. These are ripped off to count as a “touch”. Try Tag Rugby are the UK’s official delegates of the Oz Tag Football Federation, whose members include OzTag Australia and NZ Tag Football. Visit www.trytagrugby.com to find out more about this much safer form of rugby.
P is for Pooh Sticks.
The Pooh Sticks Championships are based on a game in AA Milne’s Winnie the Pooh stories. They take place each spring at Days Lock in Little Wittenham. The object of the game is to race marked sticks in the River Thames. The Pooh Sticks Championships are organised every year by the Rotary Club of Oxford Spires, with around 1 500 entrants.
Q is for Quoits
Quoits is a game played with steel discs, which are thrown across a set distance at a metal spike (called a pin, hob or mott). In the UK, there are three variations of the game – the Northern Game, played in the Esk Valley region; East Anglian Quoits, an English version which uses smaller, lighter discs; and The Long Game, mainly played in Scotland and Wales.
R is for Roller Derby.
Roller Derby, made popular in the USA in the 1950’s, is back with a vengeance. Roller Derby Leagues are popping up all over the world, including London. This exciting sport involves two teams of five members skating in the same direction around a track. Game play consists of a series of short jams, where each team’s jammer scores points by lapping members of the opposite team. The other members help their own jammer while trying to block the opposing jammer. It’s a fast-paced, high contact sport for girls only. Visit www.londonrollergirls.com to find a roller derby event near you. Or, if you’re feeling brave, audition to join a team!
S is for Slacklining.
Slacklining is essentially the art of balancing and doing tricks on webbing that’s strung between two trees or poles. It’s like a combination of trampoline and tightrope walking, and great for improving fitness, learning focus and balance, as well as core-strengthening. Popular among skateboarders, yogis and surfers, slacklining is fairly easy to learn, although the harder tricks take plenty of practice! Since 2010, the World Slackline Federation has been trying to establish tricklining as a competitive sport. Visit ukslackline.com to find out more about this fast-growing activity.
T is for Toe Wrestling.
Yes, it’s an actual sport and it’s fast gaining popularity in the UK. The World Championships were first held in Wetton in the 1970’s and are now held at the Bentley Brook Inn in Ashbourne, Derbyshire every year. It is common courtesy for each player to remove the other player’s shoes and socks. Players then link toes and opponents attempt to pin their opponent’s foot for three seconds, while avoiding having their own foot pinned. The current world champion is Alan “Nasty” Nash. If you want to follow in his, er, footsteps, just be aware that injuries do occur. Nash has broken nine toes over the years – including four in one fight.
U is for Uni-cycling.
The unicycle seems by most accounts to be a modern version of the penny-farthing, popular during the late 19th century. Today, unicycling is gaining popularity, particularly in the UK, where sports such as Unicycle Hockey and Unicycle Basketball are played. All that’s needed is a unicycle and a great sense of balance. Visit unicycle.org.uk to join a club and compete.
V is for Volleyball.
Volleyball is a fun team sport and a great way to keep fit. There are three types of volleyball in the UK: indoor, beach and sitting. To join a club near you, go to www.volleyballengland.org.
W is for Wakeboarding.
Wakeboarding is a water sport which involves riding a wakeboard over the surface of a body of water and can be considered a combination of water-skiing, snowboarding and surfing techniques.
The rider is normally towed behind a motorboat and performs tricks and jumps to demonstrate skill. This year, Team GB won Team Gold at 2012 Euro Championships with 3 Golds and 2 Silvers.
Visit the official wakeboarding UK page for more info: www.wakeboard.co.uk.
X is for X-Games.
Don’t get too excited – X Games are not yet in the UK, but they should be! Join the movement to get X-Games to the UK. www.facebook.com/XGamesBristol
Y is for Yoga.
Yoga is – believe it or not – one of the world’s fastest-growing industries. Yoga studios are popping up all over the UK, so there’s really no excuse for not trying it out. While not strictly a “sport”, it is a fantastic way to keep fit, lose weight and keep a healthy body and mind. One of the most popular forms is Bikram Yoga, practised in a studio heated to around 40 degrees Celsius. Check out www.bikramyoga.co.uk, who offer an introductory special of £35 for 30 days’ of yoga.
Z is for Zui Quan.
Our final sport is Zuì Quán (meaning Drunken Fist), a concept in traditional Chinese martial arts, where the techniques appear to imitate a drunkard’s movements. The postures are created by using momentum and body weight, and it is considered one of the most difficult Wushu techniques to learn. While the actual sport is not taking off in the UK just yet, you can witness expert Zui Quan moves every night in many pubs across Britain.