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WPR host catches kubb fever

Rob Ferrett offers not-so-expert advice on how to toss wooden batons

“Wisconsin Today” host Rob Ferrett (center) plays the Swedish yard game Kubb with producers Beatrice Lawrence (right) and Mackenzie Krumme (left) on Thursday, June 27, 2024 in Madison, Wis. Lorin Cox/WPR

I’ve watched people play kubb before.

I should have paid closer attention.

It’s my first time playing.

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And I have questions.

Do I step into the throw? Do I stand still and crouch? And most importantly: Why can’t I hit the wooden blocks on the other side?

And why is my co-host doing better than I am?

“Wisconsin Today” host Kate Archer Kent throws a baton while playing the Swedish yard game kubb with digital content producer Jonah Beleckis on Thursday, June 27, 2024 in Madison, Wis. Lorin Cox/WPR

Backing up a bit: Kubb is a Swedish lawn game. It’s in the neighborhood of bocce and lawn bowling, but take away the spheres and replace them with right angles. You toss a wooden baton underhanded and try to knock over a rectangular block. It’s a little more complicated than that, but not much. It’s a lawn game, it can’t be too complicated.

Kubb got big here in Wisconsin, thanks in large part to the efforts of Eric Anderson, the director of the U.S. National Kubb Championship in Eau Claire. He played the game in Sweden, and then he turned it into a hit in the U.S. (Listen to Thursday’s show for an interview with Eric!)

So why am I playing kubb across the street from the WPR studio?

“Wisconsin Today” host Rob Ferrett throws a kubb baton, and, from the look on his face, tries to control it with the power of his mind. Producer Mackenzie Krumme looks on, skeptically. Lorin Cox/WPR

“Wisconsin Today” producer Richelle Wilson plays kubb and has a set of batons and blocks. With the national championships coming up in Eau Claire, she gave us a kubb 101 lesson.

Here are my takeaways from the experience:

It’s harder than it looks

It is a lot more difficult than I thought it would be to hit the blocks on the other side of the pitch. And it is easy to over-correct. If I missed to the left and tried to aim right a little … on the next throw, I’d miss to the right.

I am cursed

I had some throws where I missed by a lot, sure. But I had even more throws where I just barely missed. Where the baton seemed to magically dance and shimmy its way around the kubb. Taunting me and my hubris, perhaps? Or maybe it’s a curse from some kind of ancient Swedish fairy spirit. Probably that.

Don’t walk up into the throw

I tried a three step walk-up into the throw at the beginning, then a one-step throw. But things got better when I stopped stepping into it, and just crouched slightly. I confirmed that hard-earned experience with a look at video of kubb championships. The experts don’t step into the throw.

It’s fun!

Despite a frustrating start, I had a good time. And when I finally did start finding the range and knocking over the blocks — all the better. I could definitely feel a case of kubb fever coming on.

But I’m not quite ready for the championships in Eau Claire.