US kubb fans set sights on Swedish crown

US kubb fans set sights on Swedish crown
What started as a small fundraiser with a few wooden blocks in a Wisconsin park grown into the US National Kubb Championships. The Local's Christine Demsteader speaks with the Americans intent on one day beating the Swedes at their own game.

“Everybody played kubb everywhere we went,” says Erin Anderson who moved with her husband Eric from the US to Karlskrona in southern Sweden in 2005. The couple wanted to experience all things Swedish and, while Eric pursued a graduate program, it was also a chance for the couple to delve deeper into their Swedish ancestry.

Often nicknamed “Viking Chess” the rules are pretty simple. Take two teams, ten kubbs – rectangular wooden blocks – and one king kubb, which is taller than the rest. Knock your opponents’ kubbs down with wooden batons, before they get yours and finish off by flooring the king.

When Erin and Eric returned home to the US twelve months later, they had caught the kubb bug, happy to admit to being hooked on a simple Swedish outdoor game that no summer in Sweden should be without.

“When we came back to Wisconsin we brought a set with us and played it almost every day,” she adds.

Fifteen teams comprising family and friends gathered for the first tournament in their home city of Eau Claire in 2007. By 2010, with the spread of local kubb clubs and leagues, the Anderson’s felt the event had grown big enough to justify naming it the US National Championships.

Today, it is the biggest kubb tournament outside Sweden where the World Championships have been held on the island of Gotland since 1995. This year’s annual US tournament took place on July 13th and 14th, stretching over two days to accommodate the 88 teams that had signed up. One team traveled all the way from Canada to take part.

“It provides an opportunity to meet new people and introduce people to Nordic culture,” Eric adds. “All of the people promoting the game in Eau Claire are building something special here, a real kubb community.”

Eau Claire council has even gone so far as to pass a resolution to declare their city as “The Kubb Capital of North America”.

The pastime has become highly competitive, however, and the Andersons are now intent on conquering Sweden and beating the Swedes at their own game.

Eric competed in 2011 the World Championships in Gotland, joining a Stockholm team called The Emigrants.

“There’s quite a lot of talk of taking teams to Sweden to play in the World Championships in the future,” Erin adds. “We want to show the Swedes what we’ve learned but more so, we really want to beat them.”

Christine Demsteader

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