2014 U.S. National Kubb Championship

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).

The team

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.

A mockup of The Settlers of Baton t-shirts.

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.

Group play

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.

A photo of The Settlers of Baton with Team Norway at the 2014 U.S. National Kubb Championship.

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.

Championship 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.

Oru Kayak Review

Abby and I recently bought Oru Kayaks. We’ve both wanted kayaks for a ridiculously long time, but the combination of expense, storage and transportation was an issue. The Oru Kayak was the perfect answer.

Oru Kayaks

We were finally pushed over the edge from wanting to fully being behind buying them after we spent an afternoon test paddling a variety of kayaks at a demo day. After that, we knew it was something we really should do and so we worked out a budget. Unfortunately, we still had a big problem… kayaks are huge, and we live in a one-bedroom apartment.

That Saturday we went from “let’s just have some fun and try these kayaks” to “yes, we totally should buy kayaks” to “where will we store them?” in a matter of hours. It was a rollercoaster of emotions to say the least. I posted about the problem on Facebook and then a friend reminded me of the Oru Kayak. I recalled seeing it as a Kickstarter a while back, but never followed up after it was funded, so I looked into it further.

It had just recently been on Shark Tank. One of the sharks jumped on board and they increased production capacity. I started looking at reviews and everyone seemed happy and most importantly, it seemed to solve the problems we had. We made the decision to buy a couple.

Fast forward about six weeks and our Oru Kayaks arrived (well, one did, then the second a week later). The 32 by 28 by 13 inch boxes fit easily in our cars as well as our apartment. When unfolded, they transform into a sturdy 12 foot kayak. It’s an amazing process to take the Oru from box to boat, and it only takes about five minutes (after the first couple times). The company claims you can fold them up to 20,000 times. I’m pretty sure that will take many years to hit that number, so that’s reassuring.

Photo of Oru Kayaks being folded on the beach.

We’ve paddled our Oru Kayaks many times already. We’ve done a few lakes (both calm and active) and the Kalamazoo River. In all situations, the boat performs better than you’d expect for something that folds up. It keeps it’s rigid structure in the water and lets you easily paddle where you want.

The Oru weighs only 26 pounds, which is about half of what a regular kayak of the same length would weigh. This is great for transporting. The included shoulder strap makes small trips from apartment to car, and car to water pretty easy. It’s also great for paddling. Because it’s so light, I think it’s a little easier to maneuver the boat. The only downside I’ve found is it can be affected by a strong wind fairly easily. I’m not familiar enough with traditional kayaks to know if that’s just a kayak thing, or if it’s a result of the lighter Oru.

Christopher in Oru Kayak

I wasn’t sure how comfortable the Oru might be, but it performs pretty well there too. It has a padded seat and adjustable back. There is an adjustable foot bar as well. Comparing this to the few times I’ve paddled other kayaks, it seems to provide just as much comfort. It’s not sitting on a couch, but it will let you enjoy a good amount of time on the water.

My biggest issue is entering and exiting the boat. To be fair, this isn’t just an Oru problem. Being six foot two and not the most flexible, it can be a struggle to cram my legs into the boat. The issue is getting the necessary clearance under the front deck. There’s a couple of inches of latches that are necessary for the Oru to stay closed together, but that’s space I wish my legs could use. I have some scraped up shins at the moment. I’m getting better at it, but it’s something I wanted to note.

The other downside to an Oru is the lack of storage bins. The water-tight containers built into traditional boats just aren’t feasible on a folding kayak. There are deck-straps so I’m planning on buying something to strap on instead. You can still stick stuff in the kayak with you, but it’s not water-tight or accessible while you’re paddling.

Overall, I couldn’t be much happier. The Oru Kayak solved the biggest problems preventing us from joining the paddling world sooner. They’re easy to store in our tiny apartment and easy to transport. They may seem expensive at first glance ($1,195), but I encourage you to compare that price to other 12 foot boats, not the cheap little things you can find at Dunham’s or Meijer. Adventure awaits, and Abby and I are ready to paddle our way towards it.

Photo of Abby Anderson Jones in Oru Kayak.