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Bizarre Australian Competitions

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Australians are a Weird Mob. In a land that's often harsh they've come up with some pretty bizarre ways to 'test their mettle'.

Henley-on-Todd Regatta

Australians have found some truly inventive ways to move about on the water. Or when there's no water, well, they just make do. No Australian would ever have been trapped on a desert isle!

Named after the Henley-on-Thames Regatta, the Henley-on-Todd is held annually on the Todd river, which is near Alice Springs, Australia. Though to be precise about it, the race actually occurs on the bed of the Todd river since the Todd is almost perpetually dry. It involves 'bottomless' boats of all shapes and sizes being carried by their crews in a mad dash to the finishing lines.

There are usually about twenty teams, who are sponsored by local businesses. The 'crews' are normally made up of people who work for the sponsors as well as other members of their family.

The culmination is a race between two large boats built on tractor bodies. They have cannons fastened to the side, as well as large fire hoses connected to watertanks on board. The cannon are used to fire flour at the opposing team and the crowd, which when mixed with the water provides for a messy end to the day.

The Regatta, however, has occasionally been cancelled due to the river actually having water in it.

Darwin Beer Can Regatta

When traditional boat building materials are in short supply, trust an Australian to think of using a beer can.

The Northern Territory city of Darwin introduced the world's first Beer Can Regatta in 1974. By 1986 it attracted more than 20,000 spectators. Vessels range from hand-operated paddle wheelers to square riggers, pirate ships, Viking warships, whaleboats, kayaks and many strange designs that defy description. The only thing they have in common is that they are made entirely of beer cans.

Milk Carton Regatta

The South Australian city of Adelaide first launched this regatta in 1980 as a healthy alternative to Darwin's Beer Can Regatta. Vessels come in all shapes and sizes and the competition attracts hundreds of contestants and upwards of 50,000 spectators.

Scotland Island 500

The Scotland Island 500 is Sydney's annual aquatic dog race. It has been held on Christmas Eve since 1973 when the dogs of two ferry captains swam for line honours. Contestants paddle across a 500 metre stretch of water between Scotland Island and Church Point in Pittwater. The winner receives a bowl commemorating 'Outstanding Canine Aquatic Behaviour'.

Australian Gum Leaf Blowing Championships

Then, of course, if you're stuck in the middle of nowhere, your radio has just died and you don't happen to have a wandering Rock Band handy, well, you make music with whatever is handy...

Held during the annual Golden Wattle Festival in Maryborough, Queensland in Australia, contestants 'blow' tunes using only leaves freshly picked from the branches of the Australian Native Gum. It began in 1976 and was first won by Wally French an 82 year old New South Welshman. Winning tunes have included 'Mockingbird Hill', 'Waltzing Matilda', 'Home on the Range', 'Are You Lonesome Tonight?' and 'The Wild Colonial Boy'.

Chuck Another Shrimp on the Barbie...

Australians love throwing things. Everyone would know about the Boomerang throwing competitions, but why limit yourself to something normal1? Since the rules for the next few competitions are pretty much the same (ie throw your object further than anyone else), I'll just list which objects are traditionally thrown.

  • Gumboots
  • Cow-pats (also known as cow manure)
  • Rolling pins
  • Wives2
  • Dampers3
1This assumes you find boomerangs normal.2I've never tried this and I'm never going to.3A type of bushman's bread.

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