They're outlandish, offbeat and sometimes downright outrageous, but you won't want to miss the excitement and entertainment offered by Florida's alternative sports scene.
They arrive in crates. Dozens and dozens of crates of Palm Beach County-grown sweet corn are being unboxed and prepared for consumption by some of the best competitors in the world. No, LeBron James isn’t expected to show up at the South Florida Fairgrounds; nor is Maurice Jones-Drew or Evan Longoria. Today, the stars will be people such as Joey Chestnut, Sonya Thomas and Crazy Legs Conti.
Haven’t heard of them? Then you haven’t witnessed the splendor of the International Corn Eating Contest, held each year in April at the Sweet Corn Fiesta in West Palm Beach. Professional eaters and amateur corncob-gobblers race to eat as much corn as they can while those with sensible stomachs simply watch the show.
Sure, Florida is overflowing with America’s most popular sports – professional teams and Division I collegiate athletics abound – but beneath that surface is a wonderfully wacky world of alternative activities. Read on and you’ll see competitive corn-eating is only the tip of the offbeat iceberg.
You may have seen flowboarding on a cruise ship, but it’s also alive and well at Fantasy Surf in Kissimmee. Riding the artificial waves is a natural thrill!
Pickleball, a racket-based game that’s like badminton and ping-pong played with a wiffle ball, is picking up steam, especially with older folks. It’s played in cities all over Florida, so click here to find a spot where you can play or witness this one-of-a-kind game.
Kitesurfing or kiteboarding is another example of man’s ability to harness the waves, combining surfing with, well, flying (or being pulled by) a kite! Lessons are available all over the state, or just pull up a chair and watch these water sports from the beach. You haven’t seen “big air” until you’ve seen a kitesurfer on a windy day.
Watching a pro team’s mascot run around the field during a game is pretty entertaining, so imagine the entertainment you’ll glean from three days’ worth of full-on mascot competition! A tradition in Orlando, the Celebrity Mascot Games pits dozens of MLB, NFL, NBA, NHL and NCAA mascots against each other in a nonstop parade of hysterical hijinks!
While I can’t figure why anyone would want to throw a dead fish – rather than season it, fry it up and eat it – the annual Mullet Toss in Pensacola at the Flora-Bama border draws a huge crowd each April for the fish-tossing, live music, and beach party. The Blue Parrot Oceanfront Café in St. George Island also hosts a similar sporting event in Florida, typically held the second Saturday in June.
Held annually in January, March and November at Florida Sports Park in Naples, the world-famous Swamp Buggy Races are a fan favorite. Imagine the excitement of NASCAR, except the vehicles are hydroplaning the whole time!
If you like your racing a little more homemade, check out the Central Florida Soap Box Derby. With race dates scheduled throughout the year, the CFSBD gives you plenty of chances to see some of the most amazingly bizarre creations on four wheels.
For some truly rough-‘n’-tumble, head-to-head action, sample the rock ‘em sock ‘em roller derby bouts of the Tallahassee RollerGirls, or check out the other leagues across Florida in Tampa, Jacksonville, Bradenton and more. To complete your fierce competition fix, check out the Orlando Anarchy and other all-female football teams that tear up the field throughout the Sunshine State.
Also in northeast Florida, check out the action at the Petanque American Open in Fernandina Beach. Petanque is a simplified persion of an older outdoor bowling game, with the goal being to toss or roll a number of hollow steel balls as close as possible to a small wooden target ball. Players take turns, and the team that ends up nearest to the target ball when all balls are played wins.
Of course, this is just a small sampling of the sporting events in Florida, so feel free to chart your own course in discovering the next great competition!
When You Go...
Sweet Corn Fiesta
West Palm Beach
Various Florida cities
Fort Lauderdale and various Florida coastlines
Celebrity Mascot Games
Flora-Bama Mullet Toss
Annual Mullet Toss
St. George Island
Swamp Buggy Races
Central Florida Soap Box Derby
Tallahassee and various Florida cities