Xtreme Dutch Sport

Top Jump
A few years ago, while watching The Amazing Race (at 4:09), I saw fierljeppen for the first time, although I didn’t know that name at the time, nor did I understand how big a sport it is here. Fierljeppen is an ancient Dutch sport in which competitors using a long pole jump from one side of a canal to the other. The origin stems from farmers doing this to get from one field to another.

Historically, the practice dates back to at least the 1200s, when the first written mention appears. The first major organized competition was in the 1700s. It’s particularly popular up in Friesland, which is where the term fierljeppen comes from; in other parts of the country, the sport is known as polsstokverspringen. Before you start imagining current competitors dressing in traditional costumes and everything being quiet and quaint, think again.
Finish Line
Nowadays, there are competitions sponsored by Red Bull, with massive crowds (I didn’t get any photos that truly give you the scope of how many people were there, but according to the Red Bull website, there were 13,000 spectators and G and I were two of those. We got there about an hour after it started and stayed to see the top eight jumpers go twice, including the setting of a new world record.

The basic idea behind the sport is to take a running jump, leaping and then climbing up a really tall pole (14 meters long in this case), before eventually (hopefully) landing on the other side of the canal. We saw a few competitors who managed to climb all the way to the top of the pole, some with better luck than others once they got up there. You’ve got to control the forward and lateral movement of the pole while you’re up there and it’s definitely much harder than it looks from all accounts.
Rising High

In the Air

Before they jump, they get to arrange the pole, first adjusting it to arm’s length out and then with an added distance achieve with some sort of measuring stick. To be honest, I don’t know the details on this, other than having watched all the competitors do it.
Setting Up

Final Adjustment

There are also divers in the water to help position the pole after each jump and to provide help to any jumpers who don’t actually land on the ground. We saw a few splashes yesterday, but fortunately, no one was hurt.
Diver Assistance

The whole event was filmed and televised, with interviewers on hand after jumps to talk to the competitors. There were also big screens on hand to show the crowd some of the different angles. I got some more photos and videos, but ultimately chose just to watch and enjoy. If the Red Bull website’s video of the event ever starts working, I’ll add a link to it. It was a beautiful day and the event was a lot of fun. I definitely recommend going to a competition if you ever get the chance. I’ll leave the jumping to the professionals, though.
Big Jumper
And the Red Bull video is finally up and working.

14 thoughts on “Xtreme Dutch Sport

  1. This sounds so crazy and fun. I wonder if they have Fierljeppen competitions in my area too. Not so many canals here, but we do have the big river.

    • Thanks for the link! Your site was very helpful in explaining the sport’s history to me. I really did enjoy it and definitely want to see more.

  2. This is so cool. I’d never heard of it before but you do a great job of explaining it. It must have been a lot of fun to watch.

    The other one I enjoy is were they have to make their own boat kind of thingy that they launch into the water via a slid and have to make it to a bell in the middle of the water. The televised program is called Snell Naar De Bell but I don’t know if that is what the thing itself is called.

    • Thanks! I was a bit distracted while writing and worried I didn’t do a very good job. It’s fantastic watching them scramble up the pole and then weave about up there, not knowing which direction they’re going to end up landing!

      I’ve heard of the boat-making sport, but didn’t realize they televised it here. I’ve only seen it in Red Bull commercials in the US, but it always looks like so much fun. I’ll have to keep an eye out for it.

  3. Excellent report, Alison! I saw this once in some small town in Friesland, but this was definitely a big event. How nice that you could be there! It really looks quite difficult to do …

    • I’d love to see one of the smaller and maybe more traditional competitions some time, although this event was definitely a lot of fun. When you see amateurs try, you suddenly realize that it doesn’t seem as easy as the professionals make it look. As always! πŸ™‚

  4. I’ve been living in Holland for 3 years and I have never heard of this sport. Where have I been? This looks crazy and fun and so Dutch! πŸ™‚
    I’m off to watch the video on the Red Bull site!

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