Every single time the Olympics rolls around we need to get accustomed to learning the intricacies of new sports. Heck, the variety is what makes the games so fun to watch. That said, I am utterly dismayed that the IOC has not picked up on the world of Competitive Walnut Smashing, the greatest endurance sport on the planet.
This event happened back in September of 2020, but I’m only just learning about it thanks to Kendall Baker on Twitter. I’m a little mad at myself for not knowing about it until now. The rules are really pretty straightforward: Line up a whole gang of walnuts, and smash them with your head like a bird pecking at the earth looking for a worm.
This record attempt, organized by the Guiness Book of World Records and aired on Italian TV wasn’t just a simple case of two guys going for the world title, it involved intense geopolitics. One does not simply make an event, even one as silly as smashing walnuts, involving India and Pakistan without the assumption it’s going to carry a lot more weight than a simple record attempt.
After watching a few times I really started to get into the nuances of cracking nuts with your head, while going for speed. There are so many enticing variables. Not only do you need to have consistency of headbutt, but the stamina to keep it up for a minute while walking down a line. Then there’s the subtle beauty of gauging your “peck” to ensure you crack the nut with the least amount of head travel possible. Go too hard and you hit the table, not only hurting yourself more than necessary, but eating up precious time. Instead you need to generate the most force, in a small area, so you can quickly move back to your starting position to start another peck.
I love this so much because it’s simple. It’s brutal. It’s entrancing. One minute is the perfect length for an endurance sport where it’s over around the same time you’re getting bored as a viewer, and seeing walnuts burst open like piñatas is just fun.
I see huge potential in the Olympics as splitting walnut smashing into two sports. The first, a simple speed test to see how many walnuts can be cracked. The second, a 30 minute team challenge in which one person has to crack the walnuts, then they’re given to a partner, a professional chef, who needs to turn those walnuts into a dish and present to a panel of judges. Weighing the walnut-forward flavors in regional cuisine with regional dishes would be a delight. Do you spend 5 minutes on cracking and 25 on cooking, or have a champion nut cracker who can bang out 150 nuts in a minute, giving the chef the maximum amount of time.
Tell me you wouldn’t watch this. If you say “no,” you’re lying.