Bike polo, speedminton, or bouldering: This summer, those of you who love to work up a sweat under open skies won’t even have to leave the city. Introducing: the best sporting activities for streets, squares, and neighborhood parks.
Can’t imagine life without your fixed gear bike? Eager to pit your skills against another team? Then try your local bike polo club. Although the two-wheeled version of this equestrian-meets-ball game has been around since 1891, it used to be played on a grass court.
After a brief heyday, however, the sport fell out of favor and it took a group of bored Seattle bike couriers in the early 2000s to rediscover this blend of polo and hockey and herald a well-deserved renaissance.
And while rules might vary from club to club, they usually involve two teams of three cyclists chasing a ball with home-made mallets, aiming for the opposite goal – without ever touching the ground with their feet. People are playing bike polo in cities around the world – now on tarmac, to match the sport’s urban vibe and setting.
The great thing about playing shuttlecock – or badminton – is that you can do it absolutely anywhere. Anywhere not too windy, that is. Berlin-based enthusiast Bill Brandes wasn’t too happy with this restriction and, in 2001, came up with his own version of the freestyle sport: speedminton.
Using special rackets and heavier, glow-in-the-dark balls capable of reaching almost 180 miles per hour, his spin-off is perfect for sweltering metropolitan summers – after sunset, when temperatures are finally falling to bearable levels.
Allegedly, it was Scottish shepherds who invented golf back in the 18th century, probably out of sheer boredom: The sport’s origins are firmly rooted in down-to-earth farming and herding culture, not a pastime of today’s high-income elite.
Urban golf (or cross golf) takes this original golfing spirit back to the roots, at least in terms of access. If you fancy a quick round, you don’t need expensive club membership (or a pristine, water-guzzling expanse of lawn) to join the fun – just arrange to meet some friends and propel the rubber ball into a pre-determined “hole” and goal with the fewest number of strokes.
The golden rule of urban golf: Don’t bother your fellow urbanites. Otherwise, go out and pick your own freestyle playing field – while anything goes in theory, derelict industrial sites are recommended for obvious safety reasons.
In a world of elevators and escalators, more and more people are once again feeling the urge to scale obstacles without mechanical help. After all, climbing things is one of those instinctive movements our bodies know and enjoy from early childhood.
So, it shouldn’t come as a great surprise that a growing number of enthusiasts are trying their hands (and feet) at bouldering. But instead of braving the Rockies with crampons and climbing ropes, urbanites now tackle modified or artificial boulders and walls found in many parks and squares.
And there’s no need to reach dizzying cloud levels. Boulders are only a few meters tall – no need for a safety rope. Sounds like child’s play? No way! Bouldering is not just about the physical climbing challenge, but also involves picking just the right route and strategy in advance.
This makes bouldering the perfect, playful combo of full-body workout, guided flow, expert coordination, and elegant movement – whether at special bouldering centers or in the great outdoors.
An elastic nylon belt and two firm anchoring points – that’s all you need to train your sense of balance on a slackline. But beware: Although almost ground-skimming lowlines might look like nothing special, walking this slack rope from one end to the other – or even just keeping your balance on the spot – can be impossible for beginners.
The treacherous line reacts to the tiniest movements and shifts of weight, training your focus, body control, and core muscles.
But let’s not forget what really matters: Even if you don’t make it to the end of the line and end up landing on the grass, slacklining is buckets of fun. At the very least, for everyone else in the park.