• 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

  • Sports

    Friday’s high school football recap

    by KTVA Sports on Aug 28, 22:57

    The weekend is off to a rousing start. The top-ranked team in the state, West survived a late charge by #2 Dimond, winning on the road at Alumni Field 18-13. The Eagles took an 18-0 lead into the half as Julo Tagalu scored twice and PJ Seui added a touchdown run. At Palmer, the Moose got their first win of the […]

  • Sports

    Service H.S. quarterback suspended

    by Dave Goldman on Aug 28, 22:42

    Service High Football will have to regroup. Sophomore starting quarterback Xavier Harris has been suspended from school. He will not be in uniform for Saturday’s game with Soldotna. “All we can say is we have a young man that’s been suspended from school and he will not be on the roster tomorrow.” said Service Head Coach […]

  • Weather

    Evening News Weather, Aug. 28

    by KTVA Weather on Aug 28, 22:26

    Kenai Peninsula/Prince William Sound Expect partly cloudy skies Saturday with highs in the upper 50s and low 60s.   Southeast Showers will be likely as an area of low pressure continues to churn up gulf moisture into the Panhandle. Highs will be in the mid 50s.   Interior/North Slope For the Interior, expect a chance […]

  • News

    Eating Alaskan at the Alaska State Fair

    by Shannon Ballard on Aug 28, 22:06

    It’s not hard to find people who like to eat their way through the Alaska State Fair. Beth Foglesong is one of them. Every year she stops at the Pristine Products booth to slurp some fresh oysters from Prince William Sound. “The people that like them come every year,” said oyster farmer Dave Sczawiaski. Sczawiaski’s oysters […]

  • Lifestyle

    Presidential Visits to Alaska: Memorable, if not quirky

    by Rhonda McBride on Aug 28, 21:55

    With all the build-up to President Barack Obama’s visit to the 49th State next week, it’s worth a look back at past presidential visits. They’re far and few between. Usually Alaska is not the destination, but a refueling stop for Air Force One. What’s significant about this trip is the length of stay. Obama is […]

  • News

    President Obama to announce Denali Commission as lead agency on community relocation project

    by Emily Russell / KNOM on Aug 28, 18:05

    The U.S. Arctic Research Commission was in Nome this week discussing Arctic issues ranging from international shipping to climate change. One presenter in particular unveiled a key detail about an initiative President Obama is expected to announce during his visit to the state next week—involving relocation efforts for rural villages in the face of climate […]

  • News

    Governor issues state disaster declaration for Sitka landslides

    by KTVA CBS 11 News on Aug 28, 17:46

    Alaskans suffered the aftermath of several landslides in the Sitka area on Aug. 18, but a state disaster declaration from Gov. Bill Walker’s office on Thursday may help restoration within the community. The landslides claimed the lives of three Sitka men and caused significant damage to buildings, roads and other structures in the area. The […]

  • Politics

    Lawmakers seek Supreme Court intervention in Medicaid expansion

    by Associated Press on Aug 28, 17:44

    Alaska lawmakers have turned to the highest court in Alaska in a last ditch effort to stop the expansion of Medicaid. A state-court judge on Friday rejected the request by lawmakers to temporarily block Gov. Bill Walker from expanding Medicaid while the judge considers the merits of the case. Lawmakers sued after Walker decided to […]