Kubbathon – Halftime Report

I’ve been playing kubb for the last 18 hours, and I can already say that the kubbathon has been a success. I had many goals, and they’ve all been met in one way or another. But there have been other benefits.

Friends that I haven’t seen for months, and in some cases many years, have stopped to play kubb with me. I was not expecting so much camaraderie and solidarity, but I should have. Kubb brings people together like no other game or sport I’ve been part of. Eau Claire needs kubb. 

A few people that I have known for over 10 years came to visit. We played kubb and talked like never before. What a gift to be able to share this game and use it to strengthen my own community.

A friend of my son asked “Where’s your tent?” The look on his face when I told him I really wasn’t going to sleep was priceless. To help open someone’s mind, to watch other people see new possibilities. That’s kubbathon, that’s kubb.

In addition to local support, I’ve had people from around the world contact me and offer encouragement. Kubb is small, but deep. Knowing that someone played kubb in a blizzard today, in support of kubbathon, gives me the energy to put down my keyboard and play another 50 games.

I hope you can see the beauty of the challenge I call kubbathon. Will you take it futher?

Kubb on the Confluence: a Manifesto

a declaration of a two day kubb project and a new challenge for the world’s longest consecutive kubb friendly

the confluence

the confluence

Where the Eau Claire River runs into the Chippewa, there are Bald Eagles in the trees. I love bald eagles, and I love the rivers. I want people to see bald eagles there. Where the rivers come together. I play kubb there. I will, with Eau Claire. I want to share this sacred space with others. And experience, together, what it can be. I want to raise awareness. A consciousness. To remember. To dream.

There are some big trees at the confluence, and just downstream. Some are giant cottonwoods. The eagles like to sit in those trees, where the rivers meet. And sit. And watch. I do that too, sometimes. I have for years. Near the trees now there’s plenty of parking. And there are some buildings near there, where the rivers meet. A lot has happened between those bricks, and I only know a small part of it since I was here.

I’ve run and patronized many businesses at this location, a leaning pile of bricks some call the Farmers Store on Graham. I’ve called it home. A field of dreams. Starting in the early nineties I was spokes, a bicycle and graphic design shop nestled in with a naturopath, herbalist, reflexologist and counselor. I had a T1 cable from JadeNet, one of the first internet companies in Eau Claire, right into my PC. I watched the eagles from the roof of the furniture store. I saw them from my window. We watched the rivers. We felt the rivers. We made art, music. We healed.

A few years later I remember being at the confluence again, this time at night. We had a party at our house on the East Hill that evening. A friend and I piled the kids into the wooden garden cart he had given me and we rolled them down Gray Street, then to where the rivers meet. To an art and music center, Destini Artworks, for a concert. There was art. There. At the Confluence. Some high school kids were playing, a band. Keyboards, awkward, good. We were dads and kids, having a great time. We felt the rivers, the music.

And then a few years after that I was scoping for a cheap space to rent. Somewhere to house a delivery service, maybe a store to sell food made from friends, farmers. It was a natural space to gather and share, where the rivers meet. It has a history. It is a gathering spot. The Confluence. The Haymarket. We moved in. I saw the eagles. The farmers met the people. They saw the eagles, the rivers, the trees. They saw Eau Claire.

A restaurant opened nearby. They bought and prepared food from the farmers, my friends. The Haymarket. They saw the eagles, the art. Over time, they left. We burned. But a phoenix arose. The eagles never left. More friends moved businesses in. More art. Good energy. It’s all there, at the confluence. I saw it. I heard it. It is a special place. Has been, will be.

To be from Eau Claire is to know that there are rivers. Where the rivers unite is the cultural and ecological heart of Eau Claire. It is a special place. A sacred place. A place to be shared, experienced, loved. And to be from Eau Claire is to know kubb. Kubb on the rivers is Eau Claire.

There’s a belief, a motto. “Kubb unites people and creates peace on earth.” Sounds cheesy, but this is Wisconsin. We’re known for cheese. And Kubb. Kubb is about perseverence. Endurance. Not giving up, ever. Kubb is about building things up and knocking them down. Kubb is about working things out. Kubb is boxing. And ballet. Kubb is art, reconciliation. And there’s a winner.

This is why I will play kubb, with Eau Claire, from the morning Monday March 31 until Tuesday night, April 1. No fooling, I’m going to play a lot of kubb. With Eau Claire. I will share. We will look for eagles, and listen to the trees. We will feel the rivers. We will remember what has happened, where the rivers come together. We will build things and knock them down. We will erect the king. We will sing. We will watch the sun rise, and set, and rise and set again. Then we will celebrate, and rest.

What can I do to help the positive development downtown, I wondered. To add to the momentum, contribute, and learn. I can only do what I do. Play kubb. Teach kubb. Talk kubb. At the confluence. Add to the chorus, to the history, to the future. To share with Eau Claire what it is, what we have, where the rivers meet. I will play kubb, my best kubb.

On Monday, March 31 I will occupy space where the rivers meet, the Haymarket, the Confluence. I will set up a game of kubb and I will play it and I won’t stop for days. I will play with whoever wants to play with me. If they don’t know how, I’ll teach them. If they do, I’ll join them. Kubb will be played alone, and with partners. With friends and with foes. I will keep playing kubb. When one game is done, I will immediately set up another game and begin again. I will broadcast the games live for the world to see. For them to see kubb, and the rivers, and maybe an eagle. And Eau Claire, bulding things, knocking them down, erecting kings.

I will play kubb for two days in solidarity with my friends. With Eau Claire, for building things. Where the rivers meet. To make art, and music. To share food and learn. In my own small way I will help keep Eau Claire on the map. I will help put kubb on the map, where the rivers meet. Where Eau Claire unites. Kubb on the Confluence.

Please join me, at the confluence. For a game of Kubb. Before work on Monday. After you vote on Tuesday. Go to where the rivers meet, where the big trees are. Come build something, erect a king. Be part of history. See the eagle. Sit. Unite. Then we’ll celebrate, and rest.

The confluence is special. In it’s current state, people need a reason to go there, to experience it. Kubbathon gives you a reason, before the vote, to spend a few minutes where the rivers meet. 

Kubbathon rules:

(self-imposed guidelines)

-play the game of kubb using US Championship Rules as much as possible (team size will vary)

-we will always use regulation pitch length (8m), width may be adjusted to accommodate for parking space width, terrain changes or obstacles

-the pitch will move to avoid damage to property and accommodate other park/lot uses

-individuals may take breaks, but the batons will be passed and games continuously played in the same space

-games may be interrupted or shortened to accommodate new players, instruction or scheduled appointments

-on Tuesday after 8am, only players who have voted in that day’s election are allowed (kids welcome)

 

Kubbathon

Greetings kubb world. That’s you, reading something here on Planet Kubb. I want to introduce you to a new challenge. The Kubbathon. You know how awesome kubb is, and you know that this game can help other people. And you know that the best way to get someone to love the game is to get a baton in their hands and let them knock something down. Friendlies are a great way to do that – an open and public game to be shared. Imagine an ongoing public kubb game that allows people to come and go, learn and play. For days on end!

I’m getting ready to go to Sweden this summer. To play kubb and to win the World Championship. A big part of that win will be endurance. Three full days of intense kubb sport, after three days of travel, requires preparation. So I can’t just throw batons and say I’m ready. I need to play well, and for a long time. With a family, and job, and the need for sleep – it’s impossible to practice kubb endurance. Enter the kubbathon.

Kubbathon is an open friendly kubb game.
Kubbathon is a personal and a public challenge.
Kubbathon is an experiment.
Kubbathon is a little weird, used for good.
Kubbathon unites people and creates peace.
Kubbathon can happen anywhere, anytime -how much kubb can you play?

I plan to play kubb in one spot, continuously, for at least 36 hours next week. Part promotion for a cause I’m supporting, part challenge to the kubb community, part preparing to represent Eau Claire at the World Championship, part April Fool’s.

It might fail miserably. It will be cold. I will be lonely, tired, and most certainly ridiculed and laughed at. I’m already nervous and thinking of bailing out on the idea, but then that makes me need it more. So here I go, setting pitch on a new kubb adventure.

image

Kubbin’ to Kick Cancer

In the midst of Radiation treatments for Prostate Cancer, Dave made the roadtrip to Kasson to play more kubb.

In the midst of Radiation treatments for Prostate Cancer, Dave made the roadtrip to Kasson to play more kubb.

When Dave heard of this Tournament being held, he signed up immediately. What could be more appropriate? It was basically his life motto as the name of a Tournament. I wasn’t able to attend, so Dave took his grandson Colton on a road trip to the tournament.

Since I wasn’t there I don’t have much to say. They fought to the top and lost against Dos Padres, bringing home second. It has always been the goal of our local Kubb club to make sure the game is all inclusive. We regularly teach to kids and know that women can be as good or better than men. This is not an exclusive sport, it’s for everyone. That’s why the Ringers have chosen to include women and children on our team whenever possible.

Second Place, still a big trophy!

Second Place, still a big trophy!

When Dave and Colton made it to the Championship match, it wasn’t a surprise. Some people might say “wow, a kid made it that far?” I say “Of Course! This is the future of kubb!”

 

Tri-Loppet Tournament

Third. And Colton looks over to wonder "why don't those dudes have shirts on?"

Third. And Colton looks over to wonder “why don’t those dudes have shirts on?”

The Ringers sent two two-person teams to Minneapolis for the Minnesota Kubb tri-loppet tournament. Dave played with Colton, and Aaron with Sy. It was a great day for Kubb. Dave and Colton took out Aaron and Sy to secure a Third Place finish.

Madison Midsommar 2013

The windiest tournament in North America. That’s what I call the Madison Midsommar. In a beautiful park in our State Capital, this tourney is on my shortlist every year. Once again, the stars aligned and made it possible for me to perform in another tournament. This time with my good friend and mentor, Eric, playing as the Ringers. Dave played with Sy and Pat from Team Kubboom.

Top 3, photo thanks to Jaime Feathers

Top 3, photo thanks to Jaime Feathers

It was a beautiful day on the lake, and our game was on. We played well until I choked on my 8m game in the semi-finals against the Kubbsicles. Eric inkast and blasted perfectly, giving me plenty of chances to clear the line and finish the game. I threw at least 12 batons in a row at the backline and came up empty. Can’t do that against the Kubbsicles. We rallied to win the consolation match and came home with some hardware at third.

 

Midwest Championship in Rockford 2013

One of our favorite tournaments to play is also one of the furthest from us – the Swedish Historical Society tournament in Downtown Rockford, Illinois. Our first shot at the Rockford Tournament was in 2011, and it was a successful trip for us. We won, and it was even more surprising to us that we won that Tournament than the US National Tournament in 2010. Why? We thought the 2010 win could have been a fluke, a happenstance chance of luck. Winning in Rockford made us think maybe we were actually good at something. (This might also be called getting a big head or cockiness.)

We went back to Rockford in 2012 and had a blast again. We slowly fought our way to the semifinals and lost in a tough match with Head Slap from Des Moines. Rockford was starting to feel a little bit like home.

Mike in good condition, playing on the painted sets! Shannon ready to tumble some blocks!

Mike in good condition, playing on the painted sets! Shannon ready to tumble some blocks!

This year we knew we wanted to head down again, but there were some potential issues. One was the mystery of Dave’s cancer. Would he be well enough to play? And the other was the general chaos of life for me – not everything revolves around kubb and things always come up that can get in the way of a good tournament. So it was with great pleasure that we opened up the Ringers roster and invited our friends Mike and Shannon to join us.

I had other motives, too. Like many athletes, I’m always looking for ways to improve my game and keep the sport interesting. Last fall, I “changed my 8 meter throw.” Cliche, but true. And I was seriously working on it. So hard, in fact, that I basically gave up inkasting. After watching Mike toss Kubbs at Kubbfest in town last fall, I knew he had something special in that department – a unique throw and very consistent. And knowing his wife was also pretty good, and that they traveled well as a team, we got them both. Further, with four players on the roster, if one of us had to bail, we were still populated enough to make the trip (Rockford required 3 players per team this year). And so it began, our run for Rockford 2013.

We didn’t get many opportunities to practice as a team. I know Mike and Shannon were both nervous and excited. Parents themselves, I saw the sacrifice they had to make in just logistically getting to the tourney sans kids. It may have in fact been the first “vacation” they had ever taken without their kids. And so the pressure came right back to us! We all felt pressure, nerves and excitement for different reasons. Once in Rockford, it all came together for us.

Dave and I were familiar with the dynamics of a four player team (We played as a four player in the 2012 Nationals and made it to Sunday) – using the morning round robins to get familiar with ourselves as a unit. Reliably switching off each turn throwing one, then two batons, no matter how we were performing. Mike locked in the inkast and played consistently, and very well. Shannon used her nervous energy to our advantage and pulled out clutch shot after clutch shot.

Top Four!

Top Four Teams

As the day wore on, and the matches increased in quality and pressure, we once again used the 4 person team to our best advantage. Communication, four different perspectives, and four different strengths were on our side. We leaned on each other, making our way through some solid teams right up into the semifinals where we lost to fellow Berserkers. We won the next game putting us at Third for the day, but that was secondary to enjoying a fantastic day with friends.

(First 3 photos by Chris from King Kung, not sure about that last one!)

the Gift

In Mid-February the Ringers were hit with some surprising news.
Our senior member was diagnosed with aggressive prostate cancer.
We promptly scheduled a healing trip to Zihuatanejo, you know, the Mexican beach idealized in the movie Shawshank Redemption. The kubb set was already packed.

Everything is gonna be all right

Everything is gonna be all right

To my knowledge, no overt decision was made to keep the situation under wraps. I, however, kept it mostly to myself. And here’s why. When you tell someone the you or someone close to you has cancer, people almost always go to a place of fear. And it doesn’t help. My attitude was, and remains, that this was a temporary blip in the flow of life. A phase. An opportunity for healing and education. Of course, it wasn’t me going through the treatment procedures, either. But I wanted to provide an unwavering baseline of positive support to my dad, to my best friend, to my kubb partner.

This guy watched us for two days before we were finally able to convince him to play with us. We gave him the set before we left. Look at him: he's happy. We all were.

This guy watched us for two days before we were finally able to convince him to play with us. We gave him the set before we left. Look at him: he’s happy. We all were.

And so it became to be known, that as we slugged it out with the Knockerheads in the finals at the Loppet just a few weeks earlier, cancer was raging through Dave’s body. Back in Dallas, with Sweden’s Amateur Ringers, his body coursing. Back in Des Moines, the meat grinder, Dave rose to the top with his partner and took it all. Arguably the toughest tournament in North America was taken by a man raging with Cancer.
Suddenly there we were, on the beaches of Zihuatanejo. Our daily ritual of packing the kubb set along with the towels, shovels, buckets and sunscreen. Not acting like nothing was wrong, but behaving as though everything was going to be all right. Relaxing. Playing kubb. Teaching folks, sharing the game. Focusing on what was important. And discovering, once again, that kubb IS important. Not just for us, but for the earth as a whole. We gave it our all, and in the end, we even gave our set to an enthusiatic learner, a native Mexican we met on the beach.
These kids were wandering the beach and watched us for a minute. We pulled them in right away, each took a few on our side and had an amazing few rounds. Gave us beer, too.

These kids were wandering the beach and watched us for a minute. We pulled them in right away, each took a few on our side and had an amazing few rounds. Gave us beer, too.

Kubb is a game. It’s also a gift. And every game is a gift. Whenever I win a game, I say “thanks” to the other team. Not because I’m a jerk (I might be) but because I really mean it. Every game the Ringers have ever won has been a gift from our opponents. They could have beaten us, but they didn’t. Thanks.

When we won the US Championship back in 2010 it was an incredible gift. You don’t need to know my life story, but let’s just say I was at a point in my life that I thought was rock bottom. That night, after the tourney, I drove across Wisconsin to meet my family, tears in my eyes and a medal on my chest. I stopped at the Horicon Marsh, parked my car and stared into the night sky. Surrounded by the wild calls of nature, I said thanks. And I made a commitment to myself – to give the gift again, to pass it on. My plan? Play as much kubb as possible. Play my best. And give as many people as possible the opportunity to “beat the champs.”
The next day, I gave the first gift. In a friendly game I missed a king shot and my opponent came back to beat me. I felt the smile on his face as we shook. I said “Thanks!” And later, I heard him say “I just beat the National Champ!”
The Master Blaster in Dallas
Eric and Dave in Des Moines

Minnesota Kubb Loppet Tournament

Fresh off of my trip to Guatemala and Honduras in January, I had no expectations that I would have time to play in a Kubb Tournament in February. And I hadn’t touched a baton in over a month. But enough pressure from my partner, and an offer for someone to watch my kids resulted in another opportunity for the Ringers to play some tournament kubb!

The Ringers had a disappointing finish in the 2012 Loppet, throwing 5 batons at a field kubb and turning in a loss early in the bracket. But that was last year, on the grass of a golf course. This year we were on the lake, on the ice, in the cold. We came ready to play, with plenty of layers and a pump pot full of coffee.

Here I am drilling some kubbs in the late afternoon semifinal match against Sukface

Here I am drilling some kubbs in the late afternoon semifinal match against Sukface. I can’t remember who took this picture. Jamie?

The event was well organized and very well attended. It was a Kubb oasis in the windswept snowscape, juxtaposed with the highly urban skyline. Food trucks, beverages and bathrooms were   conveniently located. I generally eat very little before and during Kubb tournaments. In a nod to a major Kubb partner, I often eat a Reallygood in the morning and another in the early afternoon. This fueled my fire for the loppet. We had a great time in the morning round robins and had a swell  showing as the tournament heated up in the afternoon.

As the sun set, the partnership between Minnesota Kubb and the Loppet became very clear. The pitches were lit with giant lanterns brought in by the loppet crew. A big balcony of the beer garden provided a good view for spectators in the final round.

My dad and I made it into the final match facing the Knockerheads from Des Moines. While I truly claim no enemies in Kubb, if I needed to pick one it would be them. Because I need my enemy to be good. Really good. And push me and my dad beyond where we’ve been. The Knockerheads provided that push. Shoved us over, in fact. Among their feats was knocking five down in their opening turn and tossing the sixth baton across the pitch. We came back eliminating a few in their back line, but the game was over quickly, as well as the match. I wouldn’t have wanted to lose to anyone else that day.

Paid to play.

Paid to play.

This tournament also proved to be a turning point in my Kubb career. A cash prize for second place helped pay for gas and registration! Never have I been payed to play kubb like that.

Kubb Hiatus

I learned how to play kubb from Eric Anderson in roughly 2007. He was a regular customer at the co+op I started, and we had a great location with a perfect kubb pitch across the street. We called it “peace park” and it was the site of numerous Kubb Friendlies. Adjacent to the Chippewa River, with bald eagles souring overhead and directly on the main bike trail in the center of town. This is what I consider to be the epicenter of Kubb in North America.

Since that fateful meeting, I have played kubb every week, if not every day. Until work got in the way.

I spent a few hours each day writing for work.

I spent a few hours each day writing for work. Thanks to Nancy for the photo, taken in Antigua.

In January of 2013 I had the incredible privilege of traveling to Honduras and Guatemala on behalf of the farmer-run organization I work for. (read about it here!) I’ve traveled regularly since learning Kubb and have always brought it along. Particularly when I’m headed south of the border. So it was with great trouble that I left all of my kubb pieces at home and traveled for 21 days with no equipment. I needed to travel light. Despite my fears, it was amazing, and I plan to take a “vacation” from Kubb every so often so I can remember what life was life BK (Before Kubb).

Although I didn’t really think about kubb, and certainly didn’t practice, I was becoming a better kubb player nonetheless. In both countries I was exposed to risky situations requiring all of my senses. I put my life in the control of strangers many times ( I don’t speak Spanish so I was relatively vulnerable) and was “outside of my box” for longer than I can ever recall. Writing this, now months later, I can see how my kubb game hasn’t necessarily improved, but that my mental game is in a much better place. Specifically, I’m enjoying the game more and feeling less stress.

Juggling is a great way to communicate with kids. Especially when you can't speak their language. Juggling makes people feel more comfortable, and better conversations and photos come as a result! Juggling is also great cross-training for kubb.

Juggling is a great way to communicate with kids. Especially when you can’t speak their language. Juggling makes people feel more comfortable, and better conversations and photos come as a result! Juggling is also great cross-training for kubb.

I also used my hiatus as an opportunity to change up some bad behaviors and come back with more natural yet deliberate body motions. I always hear kubbers talking about “changing up the throw”, paying attention to a wrist angle or a foot position. This was my opportunity to reboot, and I took it. We’ll see if it affects my performance this season!