Jesse Fraim is part of Kalamazoo Kubb in Kalamazoo, Mi. He is also part of the Settlers of Baton team that placed 2nd at the 2016 Ohio Kubb Championship and 1st at the 2016 Burning River Kubb Klassic.
Where did you first learn about Kubb?
I first learned about Kubb from my cousin who saw it at a graduation open house. He found a set at Menards and began bringing it to BBQ’s, open houses, and gatherings throughout the summer. Moving on from my college days of co-ed softball leagues, I was looking for some kind of sport to play. I had tried golf, disc golf, cornhole, etc. but Kubb was new and fun. With every friend and family gathering, my Kubb obsession grew. Finally I found the Kubb community online and I haven’t looked back.
What Ohio Kubb events/tournaments have you participated in?
The inaugural Ohio Kubb Championship (Finished 2nd with Christopher Jones as partner) and this year’s Burning River Kubb Klassic (Finished 1st with Tyler Wood as partner).
Do you have a favorite Kubb Memory from Ohio?
Defeating Dave and Heidi at my last Ohio Kubb event. I’ve had the pleasure of getting my butt kicked by them on many occasions. Beating them proved we are heading in the right direction and continuously getting better. When we played them in the past we were not competitive in our matches, so to have Tyler and myself be the #1 seed of the tournament and go undefeated on the day was my best memory.
What else did/do you enjoy in/about Ohio?
It’s not a whole day’s drive away from Kalamazoo, MI. We are used to having to drive a whole day to get to most of the Kubb tournaments in Minnesota, Iowa, or western Wisconsin.
What is your preferred Kubb training method?
Most of the time I’m playing 1v1 against myself. It allows me to work on all phases of my game and get many more reps. I’d love to play with more people but my group of friends have moved on to starting families, which is awesome. They don’t have a lot of free time to play Kubb and I’m so happy for all of them.
A lot of peoples skill plateau’s at a certain point, but you seem to be improving a lot over the past year. Do you have any secrets or anything that you have learned (skill or strategy) that has helped you to start to get over the hump and get to that next level?
I’m sure some people have seen some of the Kalamazoo Kubb videos up on YouTube. I started taping practice, ladder, and tournament matches and putting them on our channel a couple years ago. In the off-season last year, I did a lot of review of these videos to see where I’ve improved my skills over time. This allowed me to see what bad habits I was forming, identify weaknesses, and review the strategies I was using from turn-to-turn. This video review, combined with a basement practice area over the winter, allowed me to get over that plateau you’re talking about. My practice area wasn’t very big, but it allowed me to work on 4 meter blasting and inkasting. I wasn’t concerned about where the Kubbs ended up because they were landing on a rubber mat and berber carpet. I taped off a center and sideline markers at 4 meters to recreate “the basket.” I concentrated on drilling at the correct angle and hitting the same spot with each throw. Once the spring came, I moved outside and didn’t feel like there was a lot of my game that I had to relearn.
What is your best advice for new Kubb players?
Master the drilling technique for inkasting. If you can’t drill, then you can’t win. I understand that you might not be the best right now, but you have to attempt it to get better. Everyone on your team should be practicing drilling to advance your skills. As you play more competitively and start to attend tournaments, you’ll notice that the finals usually are a match-up of the two teams that have the best drillers as their inkastre. Knowing how to get the spin consistently isn’t enough to get you into the elite category. You have to know how to get the Kubbs to bounced left-to-right, right-to-left, and stay at their exact location upon impact. So how do you accomplish this? Drill, drill, and then drill. Drill year around. Find a spot to drill during the winter to work on the spin and getting the Kubb to land in the exact spot you were aiming for. Get on YouTube and search for Eric Anderson’s tips or search for Josh Feathers and just watch magic happen and try to duplicate. All the information to be the next Darren Finger is out on the internet, you just have to go and find it.
Was there a certain Inkasting tip or trick that helped you as a beginner more than others?
When you come across someone that’s good at it, become their best friend. Believe me, they’ve put in a lot of work to get that good and are willing to share and show you some tips. Don’t just pay attention to how they hold the Kubb and rotate it, but watch what angle they are throwing the Kubb at and where it lands on the ground and where it ends up. Step 1 is to become good at throwing the drill “spiral” and hitting your spot you are aiming it. Step 2 is learning how to “cut” the Kubb so they land on the ground and move to the spot you want them to end up. Once you start to learn how to make the Kubb move the way you want, it’s a game changer! The game will get easier and easier after that, but it takes hundreds, if not thousands, of throws before you get there.
Do you have any Kubb goals?
I want to make it to the second day of the U.S. National Kubb Championships. I want to focus on team development and getting to the next level. We’ve won our group every year. We’ve made it to the top 17 every year. We need to break through. We need to understand that’s not good enough anymore for the Settlers of Baton.
What’s the craziest thing you’ve seen happen in a Kubb match?
I haven’t seen anything too crazy. Softly tossed batons coming to rest on top of Kubbs, never knocking them down. Miracle blasts where the baton somehow carried further than anyone thought could happen to clear a field. Lots of strange shots involving the center pins…those things get into to players heads BIG TIME. I guess I’d have to say the ever so often baseline double when someone gets a little careless when setting up their baseline Kubbs and puts two a bit too close together.
Where do you see Ohio Kubb in 5 years?
In 5 years, Ohio Kubb will be on the rotation for the Midwest Kubb Championship and host to the largest tournaments not located in the state of Wisconsin.
Who is the one person in the Kubb community that every Kubber should meet?
Phil Dickinson. He is a rising star and is the best Michigan has to offer the Kubb community. No one works harder to improve his game and expand his skill set. He’s money on his 8 meter shots and is becoming one of the better blasters I’ve ever played with or against. As many people have found out over the last few years, you don’t want to find yourself playing him in a 1v1 setting because he’s so consistent. He puts tremendous pressure on you to start fast, because he can put you away on his first round with 6 batons. He’s like the Mike Tyson of Kubb, meaning if you can survive the first couple rounds of the match, then you have a chance. But just a chance…
What is your greatest Kubb accomplishment?
Getting to the point with my skills that other more established players have started to reach out to me with the desire to team up for certain
tournaments. Many teams play with the same core players for the “major” tournaments, but will try to team up with players that are outside their geographic area to play tournaments that they couldn’t find a local player to play with. I’ve been able to accept a couple of these offers, but it was extremely flattering to get requests for some of the bigger tournaments as well. That means people are watching my matches, watching my growth, and saying I think we could make a great team. These are players I have looked up to for a long time and would have never thought I’d have some of these opportunities.
Who was the most surprising player that contacted you to play with them?
Josh Feathers reached out to me about my interest in playing the Dallas tournament. That’s the only 6 player tournament in the United States. I was already committed to playing in a certain tournament in Ohio, so I had to withdrawal from consideration. I knew he was looking for a player and was very honored I was even considered. If there is ever a next time he asks, I’ve told everyone that I will cancel whatever I have to accept the invitation.
You get to choose any two players in the country (not already on your team) to play with. Who do you choose and why?
I would pick Josh Feathers and Eric Anderson to be on my team. They are the two biggest influences on me as a player. I have spent countless hours learning the game from their videos, matches, and interviews on the internet. On top of that they are two of the nicest, most humble, and down-to-Earth people I’ve met. I’ve had the chance to sit down with each of them face-to-face and learn as much as I could from them on multiple occasions. In fact, one of my favorite Kubb memories was the night before the Fall Kubb Klassic a couple years ago. I sat at a table with Dave Ellringer, Eric Anderson, and Josh Feathers and we discussed all things Kubb and it went on for hours. Here were three of the biggest Kubb icons you can ever find, and they sat there and discussed things with me like we were all long-time friends.
Jesse Fraim in the 2016 Burning River Kubb Klassic Final