Fierljeppen: The Coolest Sport You’ve Never Heard Of

Hop on over

Fierljeppen is a popular competition in the Friesian region that literally means ‘far jumping.’ In this daring sport, competitors use poles to hop across canals. Sorry, did I say hop? It’s more like stealthily run, jump and shimmy up a 23-foot pole while keeping a balanced forward-falling momentum to the yonder side of an exceptionally wide and deep waterway. These competitors are definitely some of the best athletes I’ve ever seen.

In the world of Fierljeppen, it takes more than sheer physical strength and agility to make even the shortest of leaps; it takes a strong level of strategic thinking and mental endurance to make it to the other side.

Who needs a bridge when you have a pole?

Fierljeppen likely arose from local farmers needing a quick solution to access their farm plots. As this region is at sea-level, water could fill up drainage ditches and low patches of land in just a few hours, cutting off farmers from their crops. So it is believed that these savvy Freisians started using poles to simply hop across the sandbars to reach their farm land.

The first Fierljeppen match took place in the late 1700’s, but it wasn’t until 1957 that Fierljeppen (also known as polsstokverspringen) was structured into a competitive sport. Today, the sport is more for entertainment, but has at least 6 leagues and numerous clubs. Each year, a championship competition is held in the Netherlands, the National Fierljepping Manifestation (NFM).

Going International

‘Ditch Vaulting’ has been spread around the world thanks to the popular TV program Sasuke (Japan) and Ninja Warrior (US) where competitors attempt a similar feat based on the sport of Fierljeppen. Today, there are over 500 international competitors, with more taking interest in the sport each year.

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