• 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

  • Crime

    Former Anchorage substitute teacher sentenced for child pornography

    by KTVA CBS 11 News on Oct 09, 23:03

    For distributing child pornography and photos of Anchorage students, a former school employee will spend 15 years in prison. U.S. District Judge Sharon Gleason handed the sentence down to 34-year-old Daniel Brown on Friday after Brown pleaded guilty to a single count of sexual exploitation of a child by distributing child pornography. Anchorage police were […]

  • Sports

    Dimond, Chugiak advance

    by Dave Goldman on Oct 09, 23:01

    There’s more football next week for Dimond and Chugiak high schools. Each advanced to the state semi-finals after victories on Friday. The Lynx got three touchdowns from Rafa Zavala in a 34-26 win. The Lynx went up 34-14 in the second half on J.J. Tanuvasa’s catch and run, but Colony fought back. Steven Bilafer accounted for all four […]

  • News

    Four-legged first responders ready when tragedy strikes

    by Bonney Bowman on Oct 09, 22:42

    A group of Anchorage dogs and their handlers are training to be an emotional rescue team for Alaskans facing terrible times. The pups are practicing to become crisis response canines. That’s a step beyond therapy dog. They’ll actually respond when tragedy strikes, like a school shooting or a natural disaster. “Wherever people are having a heck […]

  • News

    Berkowitz on SAP: ‘It will get finished’

    by Eric Ruble on Oct 09, 22:22

    In 2011, former Mayor Dan Sullivan first proposed the SAP Synergy system as a more efficient way for the Municipality of Anchorage to keep track of payroll and other programs.  It was planned to take 18 months to implement and cost $9.6 million. Four years later, the project is far from complete and has already […]

  • News

    Trio of suicides leaves Alaska village in grief

    by Associated Press on Oct 09, 20:09

    An entire village on Alaska’s western coast is grieving the back-to-back suicides of three young adults -with each subsequent death influenced by the preceding one. A regional tribal health organization is sending an Alaska Native suicide-response-and-prevention team to Hooper Bay next week in what essentially will be a community debriefing. But in a region with […]

  • News

    Community rallies to rebuild Silver Fox Inn

    by Heather Hintze on Oct 09, 19:39

    A faulty fuse box was to blame for Wednesday’s fire at the Silver Fox Inn in Wasilla that caused more than $100,000 of damage, managers said. The roof needs to be repaired and there’s a massive hole in the floor, as well as smoke damage all around the restaurant and bar. Michelle Alley said they’re […]

  • News

    State says Alaskans should test for radon

    by Lauren Maxwell on Oct 09, 19:20

    The Alaska Department of Health is recommending that every Alaskan test their home for the presence of radon. According to the latest Bulletin from the Department of Epidemiology, the colorless, odorless gas is the leading cause of lung cancer among non-smokers in the U.S. The Department calls radon “an under-recognized health risk that warrants widespread […]

  • Crime

    Murder convictions overturned in 2006 homicide case

    by Shannon Kemp on Oct 09, 18:53

    An Anchorage man has been given another opportunity to go before a jury and defend his actions that led to the death of two people on New Year’s Eve in 2006. Ryan Sanders, now 31, applied for a hearing to include a key piece of evidence excluded in his original trial, which resulted in a […]