The Lawn Sport from Scandinavia Adopted By Eau Claire, Wisonsin
It’s a Swedish sport that may be one thousand years old and invented by Vikings, may be only one hundred years old, and is definitely not from Wisconsin, the home of the US National Kubb Championships, one of the world’s biggest tournaments. I bring you: kubb.
The history of kubb
The first recorded mention of kubb (pronounced ‘koob’) is in a 1911 Swedish encyclopaedia. The island of Gotland in Sweden is thought to be the birthplace of the sport and has hosted an annual World Championship since 1995.
The sport itself is simple but strategic. Opposing teams take turns trying to knock over the wooden blocks called kubbs of the opposition by tossing batons known as pinnar. Teams have six pinnar with which to knock over as many of the opposition’s kubbs as possible. Any kubbs knocked over by the throwing team are gathered up by the opposition, who the toss back them into the throwing team’s half of the field. In effect, the throwing team gains possession of each kubb they knock over, but the opposition are responsible for where in the pitch they end up. When the second team subsequently take their turn, they must hit these newly-thrown ‘field kubbs’ first before targeting the original ‘base kubbs’, which sit on the back lines of the 8 meter by 5 meter pitch. This makes the strategy of field kubb placement a key element of the game, as good placement will allow a team to hit multiple kubbs, thus giving them more chances at the further away, and therefore tricker, field kubbs. When one team has knocked over all of the opposing kubbs (a team in the ascendancy will have fewer to hit each turn) they then attempt to knock over the central king piece to win the match.
So far, so good, right? An easy to learn sport accessible to all ages and abilities, popular in Scandinavia where it originated. And Wisconsin, bizarrely.
The Eau Claire story
In January 2007, Erin and Eric Anderson moved to Eau Claire, Wisconsin and later that year they hosted a small charity kubb tournament. In just two years, this would blossom into the national championships, and in 2011, Eau Claire City Council, based on the sport’s local economic impact, and some impressive graphs and charts from Mr. Anderson, officially passed a motion to declare the city ‘The Kubb Capital of North America’. The sport continues to grow from its humble beginnings. It now attracts over one hundred teams, though it remains open to anyone interested at any level of play, and has even funded a Swedish study scholarship for a student at the local university.
Wherever you are in the world, consider this straightforward lawn game a summer pastime option. If you happen to live in Wisconsin, you’ve no choice in the matter – who could turn down a chance to play at the national championships? People of Wisconsin, you know where to head.
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