It's Not Just a Game
kubb has been changing lives in the Valley for over 10 years
I have lost count of the number of times people have told me kubb has changed their lives. It happens more often now, but it started within my first year of moving to Eau Claire.
In January 2007, my wife Erin and I moved sight unseen to Eau Claire with one daughter and another daughter due in July. We didn’t know anyone in the City. On Aug. 11, 2007, we organized the first open kubb tournament in the U.S. – at the corner of Grand and First avenues. That day, 15 teams (35 players) played kubb for nine hours. We had seven kubb pitches spread across the grass.
People fall in love with its simplicity, its strategy, and the fact that anyone can play against anyone, regardless of age, size, or physical capability. Some say it’s not a game, but a lifestyle.
That tournament has evolved into the U.S. National Kubb Championship and Eau Claire has officially been the “Kubb Capital of North America” since 2011. The U.S. Championship reached its 128 team limit this year, with over 460 players, and we will have 64 pitches measured off for it. Roughly half of those 128 teams are from right here in the Chippewa Valley, with other players coming from as far away as California and Pennsylvania. This is also our third year for our Kid Kubb tournament, which is the largest kubb tournament for kids in the world. Beyond Eau Claire, there are now more than 40 tournaments in the U.S., half of them in Wisconsin.
Over the years, countless people in Eau Claire have embraced kubb and then introduced it to friends and family, continuing the cycle. I personally know two people in town who’ve each made more than 100 kubb sets, and most of them were sold or given away here in Eau Claire. Local enthusiasts have introduced it to students at schools, as well as members of clubs, organizations, and more. Schools have hosted family kubb events. The Chippewa Valley Kubb League, the Eau Claire Kubb League, Kubbnation Magazine, and other kubb initiatives have all started here. People have volunteered hundreds of hours at the U.S. Championship and other kubb events. Eau Claire has been recognized several times in national and even Swedish media, with reports describing our community’s unique love for the game. Beyond backyard fun, Eau Claire is the place where teams dream, practice, and save money to travel and play. This is a fact. I get emails and phone calls to prove it all the time.
Throughout all of this growth and evolution, I’ve realized how it is impossible to explain what kubb is like in Eau Claire to people who don’t live here. The reason is twofold. First, so many people play and know kubb. Per capita, there is no comparison. We take pride in how we teach it to our kids and how it is taught in our schools. Many of the top kubb teams in the nation are based here. Kubb is a topic of discussion among a growing number of people at home, work, the doctor’s office, the grocery store, and more. When the vast majority of people in Eau Claire see it, they know it. Nowhere else in America is that the case.
Second, the community has embraced kubb to such a high degree. When I say community, I don’t just mean kubb players, but also the local media, Visit Eau Claire, local government, local businesses, and so much more. For me, it says a lot about our community. We are open. We are welcoming. We are curious. And just as much as anything, we are passionate about who we are, where we live, and what makes us ... us. I can’t pretend that kubb has touched every single person in the city, nor can I pretend that everyone who plays kubb falls in love with it. But for a rapidly growing number of people, this humble wooden game has become an integral part of their lives – and of our community’s identity. We revere it. It is what we do, just like grilling out on Saturday.
So yes, I have lost count of the number of times people have told me kubb has changed their lives. At first, I questioned it. But no more. I hear it far too often. People fall in love with its simplicity, its strategy, and the fact that anyone can play against anyone, regardless of age, size, or physical capability. Some say it’s not a game, but a lifestyle. Most people say they love the easygoing, friendly culture of kubb, and that this is the reason they’ve fallen in love with it. But I have an additional theory. More than the game’s endearing addictiveness, I believe kubb has allowed us all to enjoy, help grow, and claim ownership of something truly unique and special – right here in the place we call home.