Since 2017, ESPN8: The Ocho has showcased the wider world of underground sports. This year, you not only can watch 24 hours of the wackiest events programming from around the world, you also can learn how to play them from the comfort of your own backyard or living room.
All times ET.
Before anything else, we must first pay homage to the classic comedy that introduced ESPN 8: The Ocho and collectively taught us how to dodge, duck, dip, dive and dodge.
If you’ve played volleyball, you know you can’t hit the ball more than three times before putting it over the net. The same rules apply in the sport known as roundnet, but the goal is to bounce the 12-inch ball off the net — not over it.
“What I love about it is it’s 360 degrees and no boundaries,” said Skyler Boles, who, along with Shaun Boyer, won roundnet national championships in 2014 and 2015. Boles now works for Spikeball and emphasizes introducing the game to physical education teachers.
“Having the freedom to hit the ball in any direction and in a creative way drew me to the game,” Boles said. “It’s so much about anticipation, deception, hand-eye coordination and quickness. It has all aspects of athleticism wrapped into one.”
There are Spikeball sanctioned tournaments in four regions across the country, but you can also play at home with your own set. If you’re short on cash, find some netting and wooden legs in the attic and fashion your own set. To test the tension, drop a rubber ball from shoulder height. The ball should bounce up to your knee.
How to play roundnet
Step 1: Toss the ball up and strike it down toward the net to serve to the opposite team.
Step 2: Each team has three touches between two members before the ball has to hit the net.
Step 3: If the ball hits the ground at any time, the other team gets a point.
3 a.m.: Big Buck World Championship XI
No need to rough it in the wild when you can chase digital elk, deer and bears from your local watering hole or arcade. All you need are some quarters to try your hand at trophy bucks, but the stakes are far greater at the World Championships. Prize money ballooned from $12,400 in 2008 to nearly $90,000 in 2018 — and no real animals are harmed.
3:30 a.m.: World Lumberjack Championship
It’s not the flannel that makes the lumberjack. It’s the elite ability to speed-climb a 90-foot pole, chop and saw wood, and sprint across spinning, wet logs. The world’s best lumberers meet in Wisconsin in August to prove they can walk the walk and chop the chop. We don’t recommend firing up a chainsaw to cut down the neighbor’s tree, but try tethering some pool floats together to create your own boom-running course.
4:30 a.m.: World Axe Throwing Championship
Think darts, but with heavier, sharper objects and an ominously-named “killshot.” Roughly 20,000 competitors a year hurl axes at a wooden target 12 feet away in this one-on-one game. There are five scoring rings, with six points awarded for a bull’s-eye. Killshots can only be declared on the fifth and 10th throw of a match. Rather than experimenting with your mom’s kitchen knives, we recommend checking out one of 333 World Axe Throwing League facilities across the country.
5:30 a.m.: 2019 Las Vegas Highland Games
There is hardly a greater way to measure one’s strength and athletic ability than the Highland Games. Think of all the common field events, but with a Celtic twist. Events such as the hammer throw and shot put transcend sports, but the Highland Games may be your first introduction to the caber toss, an event in which competitors hurl a full-size Scots pine with the goal of landing them in line with the original run. American Chuck Kasson became the 19th U.S. gold medalist after winning last year’s event in Victoria, Canada.
6 a.m.: 51st National Stone Skipping Competition
The best games are the free ones, so thank Mother Nature for stone skipping. All you need are some smooth stones and a calm body of water, preferably one without any swimmers present. Nearby lakes are usually a nice option to practice the art of skipping stones like the professionals, who compete each year for the Grand Hotel Goblets. In case you were wondering how you stack up to the best, the world record is 88 skips, set by Kurt “Mountain-man” Steiner.
7 a.m.: Best of chess boxing
The ultimate combination of strength and smarts, chess boxing is 11 three-minute, alternating rounds of chess and boxing. Both take place in a ring, and a winner is declared by checkmate or knockout. Practice against friends with a chess board of your own, and maybe consider subbing the boxing gloves for a pillow fight.
8 a.m.: Professional Arm Wrestling Championship
It’s a strength test as old as any. Grab an opponent’s hand, rest your elbow on the table at an angle and win by pinning your opponent. That’s it. Mano a mano. The World Arm Wrestling League, operating out of Chicago, hosts a number of events and tournaments around the country. Don’t be fooled, though. There’s strategy involved, too, and the champions have mastered it. You should probably stretch first if you do in fact try this one at home.
8:30 a.m.: American E-Kart Championship: Anyone’s Race
Banana peels and red shells are prohibited in these karts, but a $10,000 cash prize is up for grabs. The American E-Kart Championship takes place during a four-month racing schedule that leads to championship weekend in August. Electric-powered karts can reach speeds up to 50 mph. For those looking for a place to go fast, there are 23 American E-Kart sanctioned tracks across 15 states.
9:30 a.m.: Moxie Games 3: Jugglers Under Attack
Think outside the box, like playing table tennis with your head, and you’ll arrive at the Moxie Games, held annually as part of SkillCon in Las Vegas. Events televised this year include lightsaber fencing, headis, combat juggling and a ball-and-net game called zone ball.
11 a.m.: Dodge Juggle: Revenge of the Dodgeballs
Sure, you can juggle, but can you do it while an opponent is hurling a rubber ball at you? That’s the name of the game in Dodge Juggle, which is also played at SkillCon. In a 1-on-5 format, the dodgeball thrower has one minute to take out the jugglers by destroying their juggling patterns. In isolated one-on-one, a three-club juggler and a dodgeball wielder are separated by 50 feet. The dodgeball chucker also has a minute and unlimited balls to attempt to take out the juggler. Grab some like-shaped items and a friend with good aim (but not too good) and try this one at home, just not near your grandmother’s fine china.
Noon: 2019 US Pizza Team Acrobatic Trials
Check your kitchen cabinet for yeast and flour, add some water, and you’ll have all the dough you need to be a pizza acrobat. USPT events include freestyle acrobatics, largest dough stretch, fastest pie making — which is a race to stretch five separate dough balls — and fastest box folder.
George Philbrook, owner of Nonni’s Pizza in Revere, Massachusetts, and manager Sarah Amato, entered the summer trials on a whim and emerged champions. “We wanted to win,” Philbrook said. “If we were going to be on ESPN, we wanted to win it.” Amato and Philbrook finished first and second, respectively, in box folding and Amato took third in the largest dough stretch with a size of 27.5 inches.
“The tip was to stretch the edges first and just don’t put your hand through the dough,” Amato said.
In case you’re wondering, the fastest pizza was made in 1 minute, 17 seconds at this summer’s trials. At any rate, we all know the most important skill is being able to eat a pizza faster than you can make it.
How to spin pizza dough
Step 1: Use a balled-up fist to stabilize your dough while a flat palm sends the dough up and around in a circular motion.
Step 2: Add your own flare. Close your eyes, spin in circles, use your break dancing skills — whatever you can do to dazzle the crowd while the dough is in the air.
Step 3: To ensure the dough doesn’t rip, catch it with two fists — not your face.
1 p.m.: 46th Annual Cherry Pit Spitting Championship
Why throw out the pits of your cherries when you can save them for spitting at your annual family barbecue? If you want to compete like the professionals, who gather every year to compete at the Tree-Mendus Fruit Farm in Eau Claire, Michigan, you need regulation Montmorency cherries and the right technique. The goal is simple: Spit the pit as far as you can. Don’t swallow the pit or use your hands to pop extra force into your cheeks and you are on your way to fruit-spitting glory.
1:30 p.m.: Putt Putt Championship
PGA tour cards are not needed to join the US ProMiniGolf Association, which hosts the US Open and Master’s tournaments annually. USPMGA Hall of Famer Greg Newport won last year’s Master’s for the second time since the 12-round tournament was established in 1998. You still have a chance to get creative with obstacles made from office supplies and become the Greg Newport of cubicle putt putt. Just don’t let your boss catch you. And remember, it’s all in the hips.
2 p.m.: 2019 Golden Tee World Championship
No golf etiquette required to play this arcade classic. Funky dressed avatars rule the leaderboard and 450-yard aces rule the links. Anything’s possible with a flick of the wrist and an unmatched ability to smash the backspin button. Don’t get too comfortable, though. Shanked shots can still find the woods.
2:30 p.m.: School Bus Figure 8
Stop signs aren’t necessary on these school buses, which are raced around a figure-eight shaped track. There are no pickups on this route, and collisions are likely at congested intersections. Traffic can get tight when the dirt course is packed with 24-foot buses, but nobody is looking to actually get to school on time.
3 p.m.: European TramDriver Championship
Experienced public transportation operators from all over Europe compete in five disciplines — speed and brake, lateral distance, the exact stop, overrun test and tram bowling. Here in the U.S., a remote-control car and a track made from masking tape might be the best way to test your own stop-and-go skills.
4 p.m.: 2018 Classic Tetris World Championship
If you want to compete in this tile-matching puzzle classic, study the habits of the master, Jonas Neubauer. The seven-time Classic Tetris champion holds the record for fastest player ever to hit the maximum score of 999,999, reaching it in 25.22 levels.
4:30 p.m.: 2019 Jelle’s Marble Runs
Think of Olympic sports, but replace athletes with marbles. Created by Jelle and Dion Bakker, brothers from The Netherlands, the sport of executing marble disciplines is broadcasted on their YouTube channel that satirically mocks the actual Olympics, complete with play-by-play from American commentator Greg Woods. Perhaps most riveting is the Sand Rally, where eight marbles race toward the finish line down a twisting, turning beach track. The only risk involved in building your own track is the possibility of losing your marbles.
5 p.m.: Lawn Mower Racing
There’s no actual grass cut at the annual Lawn Mower Racing championship. Matter of fact, not removing the cutting blades from your racing mower will prevent you from partaking in the muddy affair, but the neighbors don’t need to know that. Invite them over to race. They’ll love the competition, and you’ll get a freshly cut lawn. It’s a win-win.
5:30 p.m.: 2019 Stupid Robot Fighting League
Don’t ever let anybody disparage your junk drawer and the things you hoard in it. You never know what could be the clobbering arm for your next Stupid Robot! Grab things like a toaster, scissors and the clogged-up tube from your vacuum to make a menacing robot, which will be controlled like a marionette. Fighters try to pound their opponents into extinction from wooden rods attached to the robot’s arms and legs. There are no weight or height restrictions, so find whatever you can to make your robot come to life.
How to fight stupid robots
Step 1: Build your robot out of whatever toys, small appliances and/or trash you have.
Step 2: Launch the most ruthless (but family-friendly) taunt you can muster at your opponent.
Step 3: Knock the other robot’s head off!
6 p.m.: IDEAL Electricians National Championship
There’s no dodging wrenches at the IDEAL Electricians National Championship in Orlando, where the best professional and apprentice electricians compete for the title of best electrician in America. In 2018, 37,000 electricians competed in regional competitions, but only 168 made it to Orlando. The relay and individual competitions showcase the finest tradesmen and women in the industry and are nothing short of … electric. Most of these events you should try at home. This one you should not.
7 p.m.: 2019 World Sign Spinning Championships
The sad Statue of Liberty directing traffic into the tax office can’t hold a torch to the world’s best sign spinners. Quick hands and incredible hand-eye coordination are the name of the game in this event. If you have cardboard from an old science fair project lying around, you can try this one, but beware of paper cuts.
7:30 p.m.: Slippery Stairs
Slippery stairs is exactly what it sounds like — a bunch of people trying to climb up steps covered in slippery stuff. The event that first begin making the rounds on Japanese game shows around 2016 went viral on social media in late 2017 for its built-in slapstick hilarity. Build your own slippery stairs course by planting a long tarp covered in dish soap on the side of a steep hill. Then try running up it. You are guaranteed to fall at least once, so helmets are strongly suggested.
8 p.m.: 2019: WCO World Cornhole Cup
Landing bags on the cornhole board and occasionally sinking one in the hole may be enough to steal a victory at your family cookout, but not in the American Cornhole League. There are over 30,000 active players in the ACL and 122 professionals. The pros have mastered the ability to land “four baggers” (all four bags through the hole) on every turn. That’s the type of skill needed to compete for the approximate $240,000 in prize money awarded this season.
9 p.m.: World Cup of Dodgeball: USA vs. Canada
Everyone’s favorite gym class sport has gone global, and we’re not talking about Globo Gym. The World Dodgeball Federation holds nearly 30 worldwide events annually, varying across age ranges. The U.S. women’s team ranks No. 1 in the sport, while the men rank second after losing to Malaysia in 2018. The weight of an official dodgeball is 4.9 ounces.
Illustrations by Todd Detwiler