Published on June 26th, 2012 | by Chris Wotton0
Win your wife’s weight in beer – Finland’s World Wife Carrying Championships
Finland seems to have a knack for slightly dodgy, offbeat festivals. Not content with the Vappu springtime festival in which they produce magazines made from toilet paper and initiate new students by dunking them in the bubble bath basin of a topless statue, oh no – the Finns beat themselves at their own game and take the crown with the annual wife-carrying festival that takes place each July in the town of Sonkajarvi, a few hours away from the Arctic circle.
The contest, which has been running since 1992 and apparently has as its inspiration yesteryear’s rather less savoury custom of pillaging wives from neighbouring villages, promises the chance to show off everything that’s manly about men, and also throws in the ultimate prize for the winning couple – the wife’s weight in beer! And given the women taking part must be at least seventeen years old and weigh a minimum of 49kg to qualify, that’s a lot of beer. With only a belt for equipment and the risk of a fifteen-second fine for dropping their wife, the competing men must cross sand, grass and gravel, two dry obstacles and a stretch of water. Those with petite wives, like the twenty year old Estonian man who won in 2004, have to carry a rucksack to make up the extra weight to make the contest fair.
As well as the main course length of 253.5m, contestants can also take on the 100m spring race and the relay. Nowadays couples don’t have to be married, and participant come not only from Finland but from all over the world, including from Australia, Germany, the UK, Ireland, Estonia and the USA.
The Estonians seem to be particularly good at the sport, their contestants having mastered the contest for years. Estonia currently holds the world record for wife carrying, Margo Uusorg and Birgit Ulricht from Tallinn having completed the course in 55.5 seconds, while the Finnish record stands at 56.7 seconds and is held by Jouni and Tiina Jussila from Raisio.
The championships get a special mention on their own section of Sonkajarvi’s town web site, which even includes press clippings claiming the health benefits of wife carrying. The web site also carries directions for becoming a Master in Wife Carrying – of which one of the key requirements appears to be ‘eroticism’. This year’s competition takes place on 6th and 7th July.