How Eau Claire became the Kubb Capital of North America

Credit: Travel Wisconsin

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By Erin Yarnall

April 1, 2024

Wisconsin is home to plenty of sports and games — from professional teams, college sports, and of course, plenty of drinking games. But it’s also become a home to a game that’s less known, but still exceedingly entertaining: Kubb. 

Nowhere in the state is Kubb more popular than in Eau Claire, a city in the state’s Chippewa Valley, and the seat of Eau Claire County. The game was brought to northern Wisconsin by an Eau Claire resident who had visited the Scandinavian country, and its popularity throughout Eau Claire steadily increased. 

Now, Eau Claire is the Kubb Capital of North America and home to the U.S. National Kubb Championship. The city’s also been producing some of the finest Kubb players in the world, including Gregg Jochisem, an Eau Claire native who beat Swedes at their own game last year during the Kubb World Championship. 

What is Kubb?

Kubb (pronounced with a long ‘u’ sound) is a lawn game that originated in Sweden, where the objective is to knock over wooden blocks (called kubbar in Swedish) by throwing wooden batons (kastpinnar) at them. The game is best described as a combination of bowling and horseshoes. A game of Kubb takes place on a pitch, which is a small rectangular playing field. 

The game has also been compared to chess, because the ultimate goal is to knock over the ‘king’ baton, which is placed in the middle of the pitch, after knocking all of the opposing player or team’s other batons.

Like many sports, the length of a match all depends upon the skill of the players. Matches can have quick play and last around 15 minutes, or up to an hour for a more relaxed, slower-paced play.

A list of the game’s official rules can be found on the U.S. National Kubb Championship’s website

Eau Claire Is The Kubb Capital Of North America. What Is Kubb, Anyway?

Photo courtesy of U.S National Kubb Championship via Instagram.

When did it start?

Kubb is marketed as an old Viking game — one that goes back centuries throughout Sweden — but that’s not entirely accurate. While lawn games have been played in some form in Sweden for centuries, Kubb wasn’t played in its current form until nearly a century ago. In 1931, the earliest known use of the name Kubb was recorded in the country. 

The game is still played in Sweden, especially in the country’s Gotland province. The Kubb World Championship is held each year in Visby, Sweden, the seat of Gotland County. The championship is regularly held the same week as Visby’s Medieval Week, which has led to the lawn game being marketed as a medieval Norse game, although that can’t be proven. 

Eau Claire Is The Kubb Capital Of North America. What Is Kubb, Anyway?

Photo courtesy of American Swedish Institute via Instagram.

Why Eau Claire?

While Kubb was born in Sweden, it’s become a beloved game in Eau Claire, thanks to resident Eric Anderson, the founder and director of the U.S. National Kubb Championship and the editor of Kubbnation Magazine, an online magazine entirely focused on Kubb. Additionally, Anderson helped get Eau Claire recognized as the “Kubb Capital of North America” through the Eau Claire City Council in 2011.

The Wisconsin resident first experienced the game while traveling through Sweden, and brought it back to the Eau Claire area with him, where it exploded in popularity throughout the city. 

Eau Claire Is The Kubb Capital Of North America. What Is Kubb, Anyway?

Photo courtesy of U.S National Kubb Championship via Instagram.

Where can you play?

Technically, Kubb can be played anywhere that has a flat surface, so it’s easy to find active games and pitches throughout the city, and there are plenty of opportunities to show off your Kubb skills all over Eau Claire outside of the annual championship tournament. There’s an annual winter tournament at Wagner’s Lanes, and open pitches at The Brewing Projekt and The Lakely. The city’s also home to the Eau Claire Kubb League, which puts on seasonal games all year long.

Alternatively, you can always pick up your own Kubb set at The Local Store in Eau Claire, which sells tournament Kubb sets for $130, pine Kubb sets for $75, and miniature Kubb sets for $25. The store also sells Kubb-themed t-shirts, pendants, and stickers for passionate fans of the game.

When is the U.S. National Kubb Championship?

This year, the championship will be held from July 12 through July 14 at the Eau Claire Soccer Park (3456 Craig Road). 

Eau Claire Is The Kubb Capital Of North America. What Is Kubb, Anyway?

Photo courtesy of U.S National Kubb Championship via Instagram.

Why go?

Since 2007, the City of Eau Claire has been the home of the U.S. National Kubb Championship — a weekend-long Kubb competition with competitive games, food, and fundraising. This year, on its opening day, July 12, there will be several pitches open for practice and non-competitive games. 

On July 13, round-robin matches begin, and brackets for the following day are completed. On the final day of the championship, the 16 top teams play against each other for the championship.

The event also serves as a fundraiser for Girls on the Run Chippewa Valley, a non-profit that creates programming to strengthen third- to eighth-grade girls’ social, emotional, physical, and behavioral skills. The non-profit, alongside the City of Eau Claire, will serve food throughout the U.S. National Kubb Championship, including Swedish brats and cheese curds.

Although the tournament is limited to three days, there will be a pre-championship tournament held on June 29. The pre-championship tournament is free to enter, and open to any teams looking to practice before the U.S. National Kubb Championship. The tournament, also held at the Eau Claire Soccer Park, is hosted by one of the competing teams, Team Kubboom.

Eau Claire Is The Kubb Capital Of North America. What Is Kubb, Anyway?

Photo courtesy of U.S. National Kubb Championship via Instagram.

How can you enter?

Teams can begin registering online for the tournament on March 30. The first 128 teams to register online will be included in the tournament. The championship is limited to just 144 teams, and entrance into the tournament costs $75 per team. 

Eau Claire Is The Kubb Capital Of North America. What Is Kubb, Anyway?

Photo courtesy of U.S. National Kubb Championship via Instagram.

This article first appeared on Good Info News Wire and is republished here under a Creative Commons license.

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