Pole sitting competitors sit on tall, wooden poles for as long as possible, usually until they succumb to either numbness or boredom. The last person to fall off of a pole wins the competition. Contemporary pole sitters are permitted to take restroom breaks every few hours. That’s a fairly recent concession in the competition rules. As recently as the 1970s, competitors were not allowed to leave their poles at all.
Canvases were hung around their poles so that they could relieve themselves in wooden buckets without entirely sacrificing their privacy. Though certainly physically uncomfortable, pole sitting is seldom dangerous. The poles are placed in water so that competitors aren’t injured if they fall off of their poles.
Paalzitten, which means “pole sitting” in Dutch, is believed to have been originated by Dutch boat hands, because they habitually rested on the poles that served as mooring places for the Dutch barges. The sport is particularly popular in the Carribbean island of Aruba, which still belongs to The Netherlands. Aruba holds an annual pole sitting competition.
The sport requires comparatively little physical prowess, and it has no fitness benefits. Its fame is almost solely due its strong cultural association with The Netherlands. Paalzitten competitions are far more popular among tourists than they are among Dutch natives. However, a Dutch contestant holds the record for the longest amount of time spent on a pole in a Paalzitten competition. In 1972, before competitors were permitted to leave their poles for restroom breaks, someone sat on a pole for ninety-two consecutive days.
One indication that the value of pole sitting is primarily cultural is that the sport has been the subject of, not a competition documentary, but a film. In the 2006 film, Sportsman of the Century, an unremarkable man dedicates himself to breaking the fictional record of spending two hundred fifty consecutive days pole sitting.
He fathers a child while sitting on the pole, but he refuses to come down from the pole to play a role in his child’s life. Eventually, he dies while pole sitting. Much like the sport itself, the film was regarded as foolish. Its critical reception was limited to a satirical honor, The Golden Onion awards. It won an award for Worst Film in 2006. The film’s director, Mischa Alexander, won an award for Worst Director in the same year.[H/T OddityCentral]