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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?

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!

 

winter kubb

This is our new black winter kubb set, ready to go on the home pitch aka "the Oasis". The kids spray painted it.

This is our new black winter kubb set, ready to go on the home pitch aka “the Oasis”. The kids spray painted it.

Winter doesn’t end Kubb play for Champions. There is no “off” season for the Ringers here in the Kubb Capital. In fact, things are starting to get a little hot around here. Hot in the sense that our community is really learning to embrace the game of kubb and is investing time and resources to make sure more people are playing the game. And we’re selling a lot of Kubb sets, too, which is hard evidence that Kubb is a growing trend around here.

Since we live in Wisconsin, Winter Kubb is equated with snow and ice kubb. Elsewhere in the MidWest you’ll find it associated with indoor kubb, which is awesome too, but I’ve never had the opportunity to play it. I like to be outside.

But my favorite kind of Winter Kubb is played on a beach in a hot, remote location.

Loving life.

Loving life.

This is when we can truly relax and enjoy the game. A highlight is teaching and meeting new people from around the world. Making Vitamin D while toning the drill and the 8 Meter. This is unobstructed all out Kubb paradise. By no means can you call this a vacation. We’re talking rigorous, epic games that can last all day. Harsh winds, diving seagulls and wild dogs are your enemy. The cool ocean and wandering fruit vendors offer needed relief.

A few tips for those of you planning a Kubb vacation:

  • Don’t put your set in a carry on, it should be packed for underneath. Come on, I’ve seen you with a baton – that IS a weapon!
  • The science of raising kubbs must be studied from all angles

    The science of raising kubbs must be studied from all angles

    Bring a used or damaged kubb set. The sand will gently fill holes and sand off rough edges. You can leave the set with a local, or bring it home seasoned. Another option is to have a new set shipped to your vacation destination. Again, leave the set with a local or at the hotel – you know they are going to love it.

  • Be ready for questions and meeting new people. Folks wandering the beach tend to be naturally curious and adventuresome and highly attracted to Kubb. Plan to spend time explaining the game and inviting folks in to learn. I’ve taught folks to play without speaking a word, just movement!
This is something the whole family can settle into for the day.

This is something the whole family can settle into for the day.

 

 

Kubb Kids

I teach kubb to a lot of kids. My favorite way to introduce them to the game is this:

“OK Kids. Adults are constantly telling you not to knock stuff over. Don’t throw that! Be careful! You know the drill, always worried about you wrecking something. Well, today I’m here to tell you to forget all of that. We’re going to play kubb, and I’m telling you – begging you – to knock stuff over. That’s your job right now. Destroy these kubbs and slay that king! Let’s throw some wood and destroy this pitch!”

Here’s Sy Green, 8, master of destruction and crucial member of the Ringers 5th place team at the 2012 US National Kubb tournament. The youngest player to ever reach that position. He’s probably taught more kids to play than me, and he’s certainly an inspiration to many folks out there, young and old, who are observing the growth of kubb.