Seven sports you've probably never heard of

April 22 2016

Doing Pilates on your lunch break or playing five-a-side down at the park is so 2015. This year, get to grips with some of the newest, most alternative or darn-right maddest sports around instead. From Quidditch (yes, that is a real thing) to Extreme Ironing (that's a thing, too), discover ways to work up a sweat that are a little less ordinary.

1. Quidditch

Inspired by the fictional game in JK Rowling's Harry Potter books, real-life quidditch was first played in Vermont back in 2005. Following the exact same rules as in the fantasy series, Quidditch sees two teams of seven players ride broomsticks (by holding them in between their legs whilst they run on the ground) around a hockey-sized grass pitch, all aiming to get the Quaffle (a deflated volleyball) into different sized hoops, while avoiding being hit by the Bludger (ditto) and trying to catch the Snitch (a tennis ball inside a yellow sock). If you’re a fan of the books, that will all make total sense.

Visit the QuidditchUK website to find details on Quidditch events near you.

2. Extreme Ironing

Extreme Ironing (or 'EI' to the pros) is essentially the act of ironing in extreme locations or under extreme conditions. Invented in Leicester in 1997, Extreme Ironing has been performed in forests, on cliff tops, in canoes and on ski slopes. Back in 2003, Ben Gibbons and John Roberts of Gloucestershire took the sport to its highest recorded altitude (more than 5000 metres above sea level) by ironing a Union Jack just above Mount Everest's Base Camp. Impressive, right?

Visit the Extreme Ironing Bureau's Facebook page for details of Extreme Ironing events and feats in the UK.

3. Sepak takraw

Native to Southeast Asia, sepak takraw is very similar to volleyball, however players use a ball made from rattan not rubber, and are only allowed to contact it using their feet, legs, chest or head. The earliest historical documentation of sepak takraw suggests that the game was first played way back in the 15th century. The game, which is still popular in Southeast Asia, has also caught on in Japan, Canada and Britain. These days, it’s played on a court similar in size to that of a badminton doubles court and sees two teams of three players compete for the most points.

Visit the UK Sepak Takraw Association’s website for details of teams and tournaments near you.

4. Unicycle hockey

Unicycle hockey is not unlike ice hockey or roller hockey but, as the name suggests, it's played on an… erm… unicycle. Possibly the trickiest form of hockey you could attempt to play (unless you're worse than Bambi on ice, that is), unicycle hockey sees two teams of five players compete to hit a tennis ball into a goal. As for sticks, any legal ice hockey stick is allowed. If you've not heard of this one-wheeled sport before, then you'll be surprised to hear that competitive unicycle hockey leagues exist in the UK, Australia, Germany and Switzerland. Clubs can also be found in countries such as Korea, Sweden, France and Singapore.

Visit Unicycle.org.uk for more details on unicycle hockey clubs in the UK.

5. Aquabiking

If you think basic spinning is gruelling enough, imagine doing it in water! It’s called aquabiking (also known as aqua cycling or aquavelo), and this combination of a spin class and a swimming session is becoming increasingly popular. Spinning itself is a low-impact but highly effective way to burn fat and build muscle tone, and the added resistance and heat from the water while you pedal only enhance this. Currently the majority of aquabiking classes take place in London, however we reckon it's only a matter of time before this watery workout catches on everywhere.

Visit AquAllure or HydroFit for class locations, times and prices in London.

6. Pickleball

Not quite as exotic as it sounds, pickleball is a mixture of tennis, table tennis and badminton. If you're wondering how that mix works, well it's pretty simple: the court is roughly the size of a badminton court, the racquets are wooden paddles and the scoring system is a lot like it is for tennis. Got it? Invented in America in the 1960s by a congressman, pickleball is almost always played in doubles and can be picked up easily by anyone with ball skills, however basic.

Visit the UK Pickleball Association's website for more details.

7. Roller Derby

Another import from the USA, roller derby, in laymen’s terms, is a race between two teams of roller skaters around an oval track. However, roller derby really isn’t a game for laymen – roller derby is a full contact sport and involves serious speed, tactics and force. The game has been hugely popular in America since the 1970s and now roller derby is an international sport played seriously in countries including Sweden, Norway, Australia and Canada.

Visit the UK Roller Derby Association's website for information about roller derby teams near you.