Recently, a few friends and I took a road trip to Eau Claire, Wis. for the 2014 U.S. National Kubb Championship. For those of you unfamiliar with the game of kubb, I recommend checking out the Wikipedia page and the video below.
Basically, kubb is a yard game that involves tossing wooden batons at wooden blocks, called kubbs. My friends and I have played for nearly two years now (but probably playing by the real rules for closer to a year).
My friend Jesse started researching the game and came across a number of tournaments and groups in the United States. The biggest tournament being the national championship in Eau Claire. Jesse made the decision that he was going to check it out, even if that meant going by himself and just observing. Being the great friends we are, Joey, Al and myself decided to tag along and together we formed The Settlers of Baton.
Once our team name was picked (combining both one of our favorite board games with one of our favorite yard games), it was time for a logo and shirts. I took major inspiration from The Settlers of Caton. I replaced the horizontal rule in their logo with a baton you would toss in kubb. For the back of the shirt I did a sunset, which is repeated in various Settlers materials. I then added our team motto, “Wood for wood?” This is a play on the common “Wood for sheep?” question associated with the board game. Since kubb is pretty much trading blocks of wood back and forth, it seemed to really work well.
The shirts and team name were a big hit. We received many compliments and “oh I love that game!” shout outs all weekend long.
After about a seven and a half hour drive from Kalamazoo, Mich. we finally arrived in Eau Claire, Wis. We checked into our motel and headed over to the soccer fields where the tournament was to be held the following morning. There was a decent crowd of people who brought their own kubb sets to get a bit of last-minute practice. We set up a set of our own and joined in on the fun.
On Saturday morning, we woke up early, downed a few waffles and headed back to the soccer fields. It was finally here, the big day. We set our expectations low, vowing to have a great time no matter what the outcome.
We started our group play with Team Norway. It was a best of three match, and despite some good competition, we took it in two games. Team Norway were a great bunch and we had a wonderful time playing them.
Group play continued with La Kubba Nostra, a match that went to three games and actually was called for time. We didn’t finish that third game and the tie-breaker was remaining kubbs on the back line. We ended up losing that, and therefore the match. The last group match was against Kubbarb Pie. That match took three games, but we pulled off a win. That meant we tied for first in our group with La Kubba Nostra. Since they had won our earlier match tie-breaker, they also won the group tie-breaker. This left us a number two seed in the tournament bracket.
Our first match-up was against the Barrakubbas. This team was made up of people from the Virginia and Washington D.C. area. They made our seven and a half hour journey seem rather short. They were again a friendly team and a pleasure to play with. We took the match 2-0.
As with most brackets, each level increases the level of competition, and our next round was no different. We took the first game, but struggled in the second. The third game looked like we were cooked, but we made a nice comeback and stayed with it to the end, finally defeating them 2-1.
Now we hit the round of 32 and were matched with Kubb’d. This was a team we had read about and seen online. It was a cool feeling to play a team like that. Kubb’d wouldn’t make this easy. We held our own and brought them to a third game. We had knocked down all the field kubbs and only had one back-row kubb and the king remaining. Joey had two batons in hand. He tossed one at the back row and it made contact… but wobbled… and didn’t go down. He throws the next one and it falls. We lost our shot at ending the game, but by now we’ve drawn a bit of a crowd. Our game had all 10 kubbs in play.
In the end, Kubb’d and their spectacular grouping finally defeated us. It was an epic match and despite losing, we felt like winners. We truly felt that last game could go either way.
After that, we became spectators. We watched the last round of the day and then were ready to watch the finals on Sunday.
Sunday started with the quarter-finals. There was a great turn-out crowded around the four kubb pitches. After some hard-fought battles the field narrowed to four. We intently watched these matches, trying to take away any tips and tricks we could.
By the time the championship match got underway, you could really tell you were watching the cream of the crop. Kubbsicles and Knockerheads were doing almost everything right. They were inspirational to watch and put on a great show for the crowd. It was a really exciting match, all the way to the end when the Kockerheads last shot made contact with the king and it didn’t look as if it was going to fall for a moment. I caught it on video.
The coolest part of the tournament was that while everyone wanted to win, everyone cheered for a great shot or a beautiful grouping. There was always a sense of fun and sportsmanship you don’t find in many competitions these days. I can’t wait for next year. Settlers of Baton is already developing a practice routine so we’ll be in tip-top shape for 2015. Thanks for the wonderful experience, USA Kubb!
If you’re interested, I posted some photos on Facebook from the event. You can also follow The Settlers of Baton and Kalamazoo Kubb on Twitter to keep up with all the kubb happenings in the Zoo.