How to Canal Jump

Canal jumping, or fierljeppen in Dutch, is exactly what it sounds likeā€”the act of getting from one side of a canal to the other by pole vaulting over the body of water. This sport originated in the Netherlands as a strategy used by farmers who wanted to get around water drainage channels. Today it serves as a tourist attraction in the province of Friesland, where a National Canal Jumping Contest is held every year. Follow the steps outlined here and you'll be on your way to becoming the Netherlands' next canal jumping champion!


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    Do your research. It may seem silly, but canal jumping is a serious athletic competition. Additionally, if attempted without sufficient preparation, canal jumping can be dangerous. Here are a few canal jumping basics:
    • The pole used for canal jumping can be anywhere from 3 to 13 meters (9.8 to 42.7 ft) long (depending on the width of the canal), and it has a flat plate attached at the bottom to keep it from sinking into the mud.
    • Jumpers have to shimmy to the top of the pole and time their jump so that they land on the other side of the canal at exactly the right time.
    • Contestants in the National Canal Jumping Contest often put bicycle inner tubes on their feet to help them jump more effectively.
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    Basic training. Canal jumping involves running, climbing, and, of course, jumping. You will need to be adept at all of these to become a master canal jumper. Start doing short sprints and scaling trees to improve upon your agility. Your jumping will be slightly more difficult to practice, but simply jumping rope and off diving boards will produce a similar sensation to the one you will experience when canal jumping. Spend a week or two doing this conditioning and then proceed to the next step.
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    Practice with a pole. Once you've gotten the basic skills down, you can start using an actual pole to assist you in your jumping. Find a body of water near where you live and try vaulting over it, first from just a few feet of distance and then progressing to greater widths. A creek or small stream is ideal for this because it will gradually vary in width and you will be able to work your way up at your own pace.
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    Invest in professional canal jumping equipment. You can get pole vaulting poles from specialized sporting goods websites; however, bear in mind that high-quality poles are upwards of $300 and you probably shouldn't buy one unless you intend to compete.
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    Enter the National Canal Jumping Contest. Since it isn't an Olympic sport, this is the highest caliber of competition you can aspire to in terms of canal jumping. According to the Friesland fierljeppen site, there are competitions throughout June, July, and August; those who are interested can get more information via that page. Remember: be safe and, as the Dutch would say, "al doende leert men" (practice makes perfect). Happy canal jumping!


  • Watch videos (such as the one above) to study the technique of well-trained canal jumpers. Try to mimic them in your own training.
  • Record yourself or have someone watch you and give you pointers on your form so you'll know what to work on.
  • Have fun! Canal jumping is supposed to be an enjoyable activity, both to do and to watch, so don't take it too seriously.


  • Don't get conceited! Even if you think you're an expert canal jumper, you could still lose your balance very easily on top of the pole and take a bad fall. Plus there's always room for improvement, so keep practicing!

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Categories: Individual Sports