Photo courtesy of Emily Jipp.
Emily Jipp of Minneapolis is a member of the St. Paul Kubb Society that has been around the kubb circuit since 2014. Since then she has fast become one of the best kubb players in the country. She already has four tournament championships under her belt as well as many other podium finishes.
Let’s start with the obvious question. When and how did you first learn about kubb?
In August of 2014, my friend Jen had asked if I would like to participate in a scramble at the American Swedish Institute in Minneapolis, hosted by Eric Goplin of Minnesota Kubb. I had never heard of kubb, so she came over to my house a couple of days beforehand to teach me the rules. At the scramble I met some kubb veterans that day as I played against and alongside of Grant Scott of Des Moines, Iowa, Aaron McKie and Cole Vryens from the Twin Cities, and JP Larson and Matt Braa of Chaska, Minnesota.
I don’t think I played again until the following winter when Jen signed us up for a five-week league at a taproom in northeast Minneapolis. And then from there I don’t think I played again until we signed up for the Minnesota Open in June of 2015. So after my first introduction to kubb, I really only played a handful of times that first year.
How long after did you find yourself playing/practicing on your own?
In October of 2015, Eric Goplin asked me to sub for his team in the Kubb Society league at Summit Brewery. I practiced a bit leading up to that, and then after having been introduced to a lot of new people that day I began meeting up with some of them every other week or so. I would say my goal of trying to practice regularly on my own began around March of last year when my teammates and I decided that we were going to do more tournaments than what we had initially thought we would. Originally I thought I may only do two or three, but, as it turned out, I ended up playing in 11 tournaments last year.
What’s your greatest kubb accomplishment?
Kasson was one of the highlights from last year. As a team it was just our fourth time playing together and was certainly one of the more competitive tournaments that we played in, so we were pretty pleased to make it to the semifinals.
What’s your goal for the 2017 kubb season?
I’d like to have even more fun this time around. I had a great experience last year, but I think there were times when I was putting undue pressure upon myself. As the newest member of the team and with it being my first year of participating in tournaments, I think there was some sort of elemental desire to prove myself. The more tournaments I’ve played in, the more relaxed I have become. And the more relaxed I am, the better I feel that I play.
What’s the best piece of advice you received when you started playing?
Initially I don’t know that it was so much advice as it was encouragement, but I had multiple people push me to try inkasting and then through that they gave me advice and offered up tips. Early on it really didn’t occur to me to even give it a try, but the more that I would watch people do it at Summit, the more I wanted to figure out how they were able to do what they were doing. However, I was a little apprehensive to ask anyone. I kind of wondered if it was a secretive thing, almost like, “I had to figure this out for myself, so you need to figure it out for yourself, too.” And that ended up not being the case at all. When I began showing an interest in learning more about it, plenty of people were happy to show me anything that they felt might be useful to me. One of Eric Anderson’s YouTube videos was most beneficial to me. In the video he talks about the intended angle and that made a world of difference for me in trying to learn how to better control grouping the kubbs.
There are three major skills to the game (inkasting, blasting and eight meter accuracy), which of these three skills is your greatest strength and weakness?
I think my blasting is stronger than the other two areas of the game. Eight meters is what I have practiced the least — and by quite a lot. My inkasting can still be inconsistent at times, so blasting and throwing at single field kubbs is where I feel most useful to my team.
What was it like for you as a new competitor at your first kubb tournaments?
Early on, I worried too much about playing poorly and letting my teammates down so I think that that somewhat affected my play. Last year’s Rockford tournament was the turning point for me, as far as deciding whether or not I wanted this to be something where I would commit to practicing regularly or whether I would just continue to play sporadically and participate in an occasional tournament. My team lost in the quarterfinals that day, and while we were a bit disappointed in that, we ultimately had a great time that weekend and I recognized that any one of us could have an off day and we would pretty much be over it by the time we got to our vehicles. That helped me to see that there’s no point in getting too down on yourself over one tournament performance. It also helped that I met quite a few people that day that were encouraging and some of whom I now consider to be close friends of mine.
What advice would you give to someone who has never been to a tournament? (Things you wish you knew beforehand, what made it a fun/successful day for you?)
Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Everything was new to me last year so it helped that I had teammates who had participated in tournaments before and helped to walk me through it. But it was also nice to chat with teams after playing them and not only get to know them better but to ask them questions as well. I’ve taken a lot away from tournament experiences through those conversations and the suggestions the more experienced players were more than willing to share with me.
From what I’ve seen, you are one of the hardest throwers on the pitch. Where does that come from?
Quite a few people have asked me why I choose to throw as hard as I do. I don’t really remember it ever being much of a question in my mind. It was just what felt most natural to me. And while I think it’s important to be open to change and willing to tweak certain areas, this is one area that I haven’t wavered on all that much. I did experiment with it for a short time but discovered pretty quickly that it wasn’t likely that I would have the results that I would like to have without focusing a lot more time on it, and so in that way I felt it was better use of my time to stick with what’s most comfortable. And with this just being my second year of participating in tournaments I would like to still be able to spend some of my practice time on other areas of the game.
What do your friends and family think?
I started to have some chest pain in Rockford last year and soon after was diagnosed with costochondritis (inflammation of the cartilage in the rib cage). At the height of the illness it was certainly one of the more painful things I have ever experienced. The spring championship at Summit was soon approaching and after that would be the Kasson tournament and I wanted to be able to continue to practice for the both of them. So my bright idea was to give my right arm a break by trying to do most everything left-handed during the day and then continue to practice most evenings. I’m sure I was exacerbating and even prolonging the illness by not resting as my doctor had instructed. One day I went outside to practice and my kubb sets had “mysteriously” gone missing and then as it was looking that I was nearing the end of the illness my boyfriend gave me the great news that he had “found” my kubb sets in his garage. So, my short answer is, yes; some of my friends and family most certainly think I’m a bit obsessive.
What is one of your favorite things about kubb?
Not all that long ago I kind of viewed my first blasting throw like I would when I was first learning to play pool. In pool I would concentrate on the shot at hand without putting much forethought to where the cue ball would end up in hopes of making my next shot as well. Similarly with blasting, I used to just try and knock down as many as possible with my first throw and then see what was left over. Unfortunately, a lot of times it ended up that the pile was left pretty scattered with isolated singles and some unlikely doubles and triples with debris in front of them. Essentially I was making it harder on myself with my second throw and then that put more pressure on my teammates to try and pick up what was remaining. That mindset wasn’t really countered until just last month when my teammate, Brian Winistorfer, and I were practicing one day. After one particular blast he turned to me and asked, “Out of curiosity, why did you choose to start left to right there?” and I really didn’t have a good answer. I think it had just become routine and that was that.
Similarly, my teammate, Andrew Thibodeau, recently challenged the way I have typically been inkasting where I would try and drop the first one as close to the stake as possible and then try and cut the remaining ones behind it. What would often happen is a couple would cut a bit too aggressively and go out of bounds and then in trying to be conservative with my re-throws I would end up making the pile wider and wider. Depending on the number of kubbs being thrown, I think it makes better sense to try and land the first few a bit deeper and then have a better wall to cut the remaining into.
So, all that to say, one of my favorite things about kubb is what seems as though would be a relatively non-complex game I’ve learned not to be the case. It’s now coming up on it being three years since I was first introduced to the game and I’m still learning new things pretty regularly.