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Photos: A look at the West’s weirdest sports

People compete in everything from pumpkin racing to outhouse sledding.

 

Photographer Sol Neelman first got into documenting strange sports in 2005, when he was in a creative lull while working for the Oregonian. His first foray was looking at the renaissance of roller derby, which he found refreshing.

“Like any good high, I searched for my next fix,” Neelman says. “Before I realized it, I was on a mission to find any and all fun, offbeat, quirky sports and competitions I could track down.”

Neelman’s collection ranges in location from rural Washington, where people race outhouses on skis bobsled-style, to San Francisco where people race kids’ tricycles downhill. His photographs capture the silliness and creativity of people left to their own devices, and the contagiousness of good-natured fun with some cheap beer thrown in the mix.

Although some of the sports are newer, others have been around for some time. Pig-N-Fords, for example, started almost a century ago when some Oregon farmers driving in Model T tractors chased down loose pigs. They had such a good time they decided to make it an annual sporting event at the Tillamook County Fair. Today, contestants use some of the same original Fords and drivers are descendants of the original farmers, driving laps around a track with a pig under their arm.   

“While it’s fun and weird, there’s still a huge level of pride involved with racing,” Neelman says. “The year I went, I saw the winner weep with joy, while carrying on his family tradition.”

Neelman published a collection of his images documenting strange sporting events in his book Weird Sports. The sequel, Weird Sports 2, was published in 2015. 

Anna V. Smith is an editorial intern at High Country News.