Canal jumping: Fierljeppen in the Netherlands

On today's stop on the world tour of weird and unusual sports, we take a little trip to the Netherlands. The Netherlands is home to a very unusual sport. This is the sport known in the Netherlands as Fierljeppen—English translation is canal jumping.

Every year on Aug. 22, the National Canal Jumping Contest is held. There are very simple instructions to this outlandish spectator sport. The sport requires 3 to 5 meter long aluminum poles.

These aluminum poles have round, flat plates at the bottom. This is in order to prevent the pole from sinking into the muddy and murky waters of the canal.

Each contestant in turn runs and jumps onto the pole. Then they try to squirm their way up the pole. Each contestant has a bicycle inner tube attached to their feet in order to aid them on their trip up the pole.

After reaching the top of the pole, the goal is to leap from the pole that is on one side of the canal in order to land on the bank of the opposite side of the canal.

The prize for winning the National Canal Jumping Contest is very meek and simple. You win the honor and the glory of being the winner of the contest, the Dutch Champion Canal Jumper.

The world record was set back on Aug. 9, 2006, although it is not clear how the contestant broke the canal jumping record before the contest date on Aug. 22. Maybe the record setter Jaco de Groot beat the record in a practice run. His world record leap was 20.41 meters.

He returned again in June 2010 to defeat his own record by leaping 20.81 meters.

There is no recorded information as to the sports origins. This sport makes you wonder who came up with the idea of who could jump the farthest distance over the local canal. Was it a thought of sheer boredom, a battle between men for pride, or was someone's mind altered by some illicit substances? Or maybe it could be a mix of all of the above.

This is a sport that I will definitely not be trying and I would probably cringe seeing each player vault across the canal. If you aren't as weak-hearted as I am, here is a link to video of world record holder Jaco de Groot making his jump on Youtube.

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Updated Monday, Aug 8, 2011