• Forecast
  • News Tip
  • Categories
Temperature Precipitation
Estimated read time
2m 35s

Knuckle hop is one of the most brutal Inuit games

By Heather Hintze 11:25 PM March 21, 2014

“You want to represent as much culture as you possibly can. Back in our ancestors’ days, this is what they would do to prove who’s the strongest."

FAIRBANKS – It’s the most painful and physically taxing sport of the Inuit games: The knuckle hop.

“The first 10 feet or so, you forget you’re on your knuckles. They go completely numb,” explained Nick Hanson, a member of Team Alaska from Unalakleet. “The pain from doing the hops on your knuckles goes away and then it’s just a matter of going as far as you can.”

“For myself, I’m so in the zone that I don’t really feel anything while I’m going,” added Casey Ferguson from Chevak. “I think that I’ll feel in the pain in my knuckles but the adrenaline kicks in and all the endorphins kick in and it’s just a test of endurance for me.”

Arctic Winter Games competitors said it’s not just the spirit of competition that drives them, but also the desire to get back to their Native traditions.

“You want to represent as much culture as you possibly can. Back in our ancestors’ days, this is what they would do to prove who’s the strongest,” Hanson said.

Men positioned themselves in a push-up type position on their knuckles. They hop along a line on the gym floor at Lathrop High School, pushing with their feet as well. The knuckle hop was also used as a hunting technique.

“I love it because of what it represents,” Hanson said. “When you’re out on the ice when you’re trying to catch a seal and you’ve got a spear on your back, you want to mimic that seal’s movements. So you knuckle hop as close as you can so you can strike.”

It’s an incredible feat of strength and pain tolerance.  Not matter how much it hurts while they were going, athletes said the real pain set in when it was over.

“Your knuckles are peeled open and you’re bleeding and you have to peel the skin off. That’s the worst part,” Ferguson laughed.

Hanson won gold, hopping 128 feet and seven inches, almost the entire way around the gym.

“When you’re finished, you’re pretty much just relieved. You just want to lay there,” he said. “The judges let you lay there because they know how hard you just got done going. You lay there for a minute and just catch your breath. After you get up, the pain sets in.”

“Go wash your hands first then we’ll get you fixed up,” said volunteer medic Wilma Vinton. She had no idea she’d be so busy; this was her first time seeing the knuckle hop competition.

“I can’t believe the strength they have to be able to do it. But yeah, what they’re doing to their knuckles is pretty ugly,” Vinton said.

She rubbed antibiotic ointment on the wounds and bandaged them up.

“Some have worn it clear down to the cartilage. You can see the bone and the cartilage,” she explained.

A little TLC and competitors can rest their knuckles until the next Arctic Winter Games when they’ll be back for more brutality.

Latest Stories

  • News

    Motorcyclist killed in crash on Minnesota Drive

    by KTVA CBS 11 News on Jun 25, 21:09

    Last updated at 10:09 p.m. on Saturday, June 25 Anchorage police say a motorcyclist is dead after a crash on Minnesota Drive near W. 40th Avenue. Police closed all southbound lanes of Minnesota Drive at the scene of the crash, which was reported just after 8 p.m. Just after 10 p.m., police reopened a single […]

  • Sports

    More than 50 mushers already signed up for Iditarod 2017

    by KTVA CBS 11 News on Jun 25, 20:10

    The Iditarod Trail Committee says more than 50 mushers from Alaska and around the world have already signed up for the 2017 Iditarod Sled Dog Race. Saturday was the first official entry day. Of the 52 entries, 12 of them are rookies to the Last Great Race, and 10 teams are from other nations, including […]

  • News

    U.S. Coast Guard stationed in Kotzebue for summer

    by Margaret DeMaioribus / KNOM on Jun 25, 16:46

    The U.S. Coast Guard is setting up for activities in Kotzebue this summer and summers to come. The Coast Guard signed a five-year lease with the Alaska Army National Guard facility in Kotzebue. It’s the first long-term lease for the Coast Guard above the Arctic Circle and will serve as a station for Arctic operations. U.S. […]

  • News

    Police extend presence at Alaska PrideFest following altercation downtown

    by KTVA CBS 11 News on Jun 25, 16:40

    Alaskans have been celebrating the 2016 Alaska PrideFest in Anchorage for a week now, but the festivities were briefly interrupted Saturday by an altercation between festivalgoers and a group of protestors. The protestors, alleging to be with Westboro Baptist Church, were congregated near the intersection of Ninth Avenue and F Street with a megaphone and […]

  • News

    APD: 2 brothers disappear from their Anchorage home

    by KTVA CBS 11 News on Jun 25, 15:58

    The Anchorage Police Department is asking for the public’s help in finding a pair of missing brothers. In a statement Saturday, police said 12-year-old James Kochergin and his 13-year-old brother Samuel Kochergin were last seen at their home near the intersection of Lore Road and Lake Otis Parkway. According to APD spokeswoman Jennifer Castro, the […]

  • Lifestyle

    Inside U.S. scientists’ groundbreaking test to grow potatoes on Mars

    by CBS News on Jun 25, 12:35

    NASA and private companies are all vying to send astronauts to Mars, but when they get there, they’ll all face the same problem — growing food. So U.S. scientists have headed to the deserts of South America to see if they can cook up a solution. Potatoes have played a starring role in one recent Hollywood […]

  • Crime

    Police search for 2 inmates missing from halfway houses

    by KTVA CBS 11 News on Jun 25, 12:26

    The Anchorage Police Department says two inmates walked away from two different halfway houses on Friday. Byron Chinuhuk, 26, allegedly left the Glenwood Center on D Street around 4:30 p.m. He has prior convictions of assault, according to online court records. Chinuhuk was last seen wearing a black t-shirt, light blue jeans and a gray […]

  • News

    Body of 2-year-old boy found after search near Bathing Beauty Pond

    by KTVA CBS 11 News on Jun 25, 11:05

    The search for a 2-year-old boy missing at the Bathing Beauty Pond ended when search teams found him unresponsive in the water, according to an Alaska State Trooper dispatch. Troopers say the toddler was reported missing at 1:33 p.m. Friday after he “apparently wandered down a heavily wooded path” near the pond off the Richardson […]