The sport of wife-carrying is basically an obstacle course race…with a twist: A married couple (or two friends) enter the competition, and the husband carries the wife on his back through (and over) an obstacle course, and whoever finishes the course quickest gets the wife’s weight in beer! Sound unusual? It sure is, but is also a growing sport. Read on to discover more.
What is Wife-Carrying & How Did it Get Started?
Originating in Finland where the largest competition in the world takes place, the track is made of sand and is 772 feet long, including two log hurdles and a chest-deep pool of water. Held yearly in July in Sonkajärvi, Finland, teams travel from all over the world to compete.
How did this bizarre idea come about? It does have dark origins that leave some people disliking this sport. The sport officially started in the 1990s, and is inspired by the 18th century legend of Herkko Rosvo-Ronkainen, or “Ronkainen the Robber.”
There are three stories as to how the sport was created, based on the legend mentioned above.
- First, Ronkainen and his thieves were accused of stealing food and women from villages in the in Finland, carrying them away on their backs.
- The second story is that men would go to villages near their own to steal other men’s wives, and force the woman to become their own wife.
- For the third and final version, Ronkainen trained his thieves by carrying heavy sacks on their backs, and presto, this evolved into a sport.
Wife-Carrying – Dark, right?
Today, this definitely is not the case. Now, couples find this to be a fun relationship activity to work at together. Wife-carrying is now practiced in many countries throughout Europe and North America, with the end goal being to earn your way to World Championships in Finland.
The first wife-carrying competition was held in Finland in 1992 as a charity event to raise money for cancer research. It was hugely successful, and soon the event had spread across Europe to much fanfare. However, there were several problems with the competition that caused controversy.
The main reason why the competitions are so controversial is that some believe that it’s disrespectful to treat someone like they’re an object to be carried around rather than a partner or spouse; others think it’s demeaning towards women, and the events are potentially dangerous to both partners. They’re awkward and can cause back injuries; many have reported doing damage to their knees or shins and even breaking fingers while being carried, or doing the carrying.
Some People Think That it is Sexist and Promotes Abuse Against Women
While it doesn’t advocate violence towards women, it is important to note that some contests do encourage it. In Norway, contestants are required to carry their wives through literal fire for luck, while in Russia, there are multiple instances of wife-carrying clubs that require that the wife be carried across an actual body of water. Both carry risks for the women, who are normally holding on to their man in a reverse piggyback style.
Besides that, the origin of “stealing” women leaves people uncomfortable, and find the whole event distasteful. However, most wife-carrying competitions focus more on teamwork than anything else: The husband sprints as fast as he can with his wife on his back while a judge times the race.
Although unusual, it really is just another kind of race—performed with love and trust between two partners.
Well, that depends on your perspective. These events can be seen as disrespectful towards women, but the people who have tried wife-carrying disagree with these opinions. They believe that wife-carrying competitions are harmless, and most of them have a good time participating in and spectating these events.
In fact, these competitions are steadily growing. No fewer than 45 countries all across the world now hold annual or biennial competitions.
How do You Participate?
Want to take your interest in wife-carrying a little farther? Look at the official website, here.
Check out the competition page for more rules and regulations regarding the event, and below are a list of some rules and regulations:
- The length of the official track is 253.5 metres
- The track has two dry obstacles and a water obstacle about one metre deep
- The wife to be carried maybe your own, or a friend, and over 17 years of age
- The minimum weight of the wife to be carried is 49 kilograms. If she weighs less than 49 kg, she will be burdened with a rucksack containing additional weight to bring the total load to be carried up to 49 kg.
- All participants must enjoy themselves!
- The only equipment allowed is a belt worn by the carrier and a helmet worn by the carried.
- The contestants run the race two pairs at a time, so each heat is a contest in itself.
- Each contestant takes care of his/her safety and if deemed necessary, insurance.
- The contestants have to pay attention to the instructions given by the organizers of the competition.
- There is only one category in the World Championships, and the winner is the couple who completes the course in the shortest time.
- Also, the most entertaining couple, the best costume, and the strongest carrier will be awarded a special prize.
There are several ways to transport your wife for an efficient racing experience—here are two popular ones:
- Piggybacking on the back of your shoulders
- The “Estonian” method, which is having your wife ride in a reverse piggyback style, and is widely considered the most efficient as it’s a more streamlined position and leaves the man’s arms free for the sprint.
What to Bring
- GoPro — you don’t want to forget about this race!
- Mobile phone cover that is waterproof
- Towels and a warm sweater are required
- Your best “husband and wife” outfit for a couple’s fancy dress party
What are the prizes?
The world champions receive the equivalent of the wife’s weight in beer and a statue of the official logo. Is it worth it? You’ll have to figure that out for yourself.
Your day will be full of amusement for both participants and spectators, with special awards for second and third couples, as well as the most entertaining pair, the best costume, and strongest carrier.
Although it is inspired by dark tales of things that actually happened in human history, these events are supposed to be a fun, bonding experiences for couples, and for men to show off how strong they are. Considering on the amount of spectators and growing popularity in countries like the US, Canada, Australia, England and more, peopling enjoy the competition and spectating experience.
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