The sports called fierljeppen is one of the cultural expressions of the Dutch province of Friesland. Fierljeppen is basically the pole vault that we know of international track and field, but here it's not the height that counts, but the length of the jump.

Fierljeppen is practised as follows. The athlete takes a sprint over a bulwark to the pole that is already standing. This indeed means the athlete does not have to carry the pole to the place of jumping as is done in traditional pole vault. The pole used for fierljeppen is less flexible and somewhat longer than its track and field counterpart. After the sprint, the athlete jumps into the pole and starts climbing to the top. Of course at this moment the pole begins to fall. If the athlete has jumped technically perfect, the pole will fall slowly but straight forward, therefore providing the athlete with just enough time to get to the top of the pole and getting as much distance as possible. Not so technical jumpers will notice the pole falling too quickly or to the side, which will cost them distance. The jump ends in sand, but not always. This feature might be the most spectacular of the sports, because the athlete has to cross water with his jump. If the jump fails, the jumper will end up with a wet suit, obviously much to the hilarity of the spectators.

This sports of speed, strength and coordination has been practised in Friesland since the early 1950's, starting off as a means of transport in the Frisian country filled with waterways. The national Dutch Championships have been held since 1972. Aart de With is the best ever fierljepper with 13 senior titles. He also holds the all-time record with 19.40 meters. Of course in this sports the Frisian record is important as well, which is held by Klaas Haanstra since 2000 with 18.85 meters. Currently the maximum length of the pole (which can be wooden or aluminium) is 11 meters.

Other typical Frisian sports include kaatsen and skûtsjesilen.

Just to add the 'latest' news. In 2006 the aluminium poles were replaced with poles of carbon. Not only did this make it possible to start using poles of 13 metres in length (about 3 times the length of a track and field pole), but it also greatly helped jumping new records.

The current all-time record is 20.41 metres jumped by Jaco de Groot (20).

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