“When I first started playing air guitar competitively, I entered because I wanted to be the best at doing something ridiculous,” he wrote. “Two air-guitar-related surgeries and a two-week tour of Finland later, I have discovered that air guitar is indeed ridiculous.”
The swamp-soccer world championships are played in the marshes of Hyrynsalmi in eastern Finland, where players sink into the wet turf with every step. In the heat of the battle, the players get completely covered in mud.
Finns also have figured that floorball — originally an indoor game with sticks and a ball — is more fun when played in a lake. In the open-water floorball world championships, eight people knee-deep in a lake frantically splash away with their sticks at a floating ball.
The goofy competitions are basically elaborate jokes designed to elicit fun in this dark and serious society. However, some competitors have taken the games too seriously, once with deadly consequences.
In the world sauna championships of Heinola, the steam bath is heated to 230 degrees. The winner is the last person to emerge from the stifling heat. After a decade, the event was canceled in 2010 when a Russian competitor died from an overdose of painkillers before he entered the sauna.
The latest addition to the Finnish portfolio is completely harmless. This summer, one cafeteria in Helsinki premiered a competition for dogs and their fans: The world championship of “sweet-talking” to pooches.
“Many participants said that they have been mocked by their friends for this habit, and they wanted to come here to show off their sweet-talking skills,” said Ville Winter, the organizer, who runs Cafe Piritta.
Mr. Winter insisted that, while many Finns love to put on a show, they also seem to enjoy making fools of themselves. In the first contest June 10, the judges were particularly impressed by the love-oozing, high-pitched gushing of some extremely “manly” men.
Mr. Winter and his colleagues have developed criteria to evaluate the canine-charming performances. The judges pay attention to the “artistic impression” of the competitor and the impact of the cooing babble on the dog.
Mr. Winter has some technical advice for competitors.
“We had one Swiss sweet-talker who performed in English,” he explained solemnly. “It seems to me that the emotion is transferred to the dog more effectively if you use your native language.”