Canal vaulting

The Dutch sport fierljeppen is just like pole vaulting. Except you don’t run with the pole, you’re allowed to climb while you’re in the air, and you’ve vaulting over a canal.

Rob Bogaerts / Anefo / CC0

Okay, this sport looks like fun. Pole vaulting never appealed to me because

  • I was taught never to run with large pointy objects,
  • I have a tragic lack of hand-eye coordination and athleticism, and 
  • I don’t like falling down.

Fierljeppen, a sport played in the Netherlands, solves two of those problems. The pole stays put, so you don’t have to carry it. And that pole sticks out of the water of a canal, river, or specially constructed pond, so if you mess things up you splash rather than crash. My tragic lack of hand-eye coordination and athleticism… well, you can’t solve everything.

The English Wikipedia article gives the impression that it is done mainly for tourists or as a funny folk tradition (like cheese-rolling), but there appear to be actual competitions and genuine stakes:

In contrast to pole vaulting, it’s not how high you get but how far you get that counts. To increase the distance, you are encouraged to climb the pole while you’re aloft, and then crash-land in a sandpit on the far side of the canal. It looks like a lot of fun. Fierljeppen has apparently been played since the 18th century, with more formal organised contests beginning in 1957.

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