Caber Toss: why long sticks give you trouble

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Caber Toss: why long sticks give you trouble

It can all crumble at the end if you're not careful. You might have an amazing "pick" that just drops into your hand cradle, a high carry that allows you to drive the stick with speed, and a quick gather step that puts you in just the right position to finish the throw ... but now what? I've seen it countless times in competitions and all too many times to me. When, and how, should we pull the caber?

This is such a hard, hard thing to coach, as it all depends on the length of the caber - that is, physics wise. Now, this won't surprise anyone, but I'm no genius thrower. I never have been, and never will be. You see, I'm a simple man and I like my throwing to be as simple as possible, too, as I believe it equates to fewer errors. I'd like to give you "x" recipe for long sticks and "y" recipe for short sticks, but I just can't. I have to make it more simple than that.
I was once told I needed to initiate my pull as soon as the caber left my shoulder. I've really stuck with that through the years, as it works better than the other cue I hear a lot; "pull as soon as the caber passes your eyes." I've found that when I do that, I pull far too late.
Think of it this way, as soon as you stop running, the caber is slowing down. Once you stop applying speed to it, it's no longer gaining - you're losing. Whatever the visual you need, realize you will rarely EVER hear the words, "Wow. You just pulled too early." I've only seen this a few times in my career, as the opposite is almost always the case. I feel I can best say it this way: pull sooner than you think you should or need to.
Now, I do have a small "recipe" for a long stick, but it's not really a "recipe;" more of a microwave meal.
Longer cabers fall much slower than the shorter, heavier cabers. You'll hear throwers say, "I just can't get it off my shoulder." That's code for, "Wow, this caber is huge," or, "Wow, this caber is long." To help with that, you've got to give it some shoulder. As you're driving the caber and sprinting down the field with the speed of a deer, fleet-footedness of a mountain goat and the physique of a Greek statue, throw your shoulder forward into that stick when it comes time to pull. This helps speed up the top of the caber and gets it falling faster. This "recipe" is important, and none more critical when it comes to a long caber (20'+). Admit it, you've always enjoyed throwing your weight around.

The pull is such a critical component of the throw, and is the final piece to turning big sticks and getting 12:00's awarded. The big thing to remember is that you aren't throwing it out away from you - you want an upward pull. Letting your hands get out and away from your body on the pull limits your power and control of the caber. Instead, think of pulling the caber up and through your chin. Pull fast and pull hard, but don't stop those hands! I hate seeing people stop their hands at chest level - it completely kills the caber's speed and your power to flip it. Follow through! Finish with your hands up and over your head.
Lastly, use your legs. My absolute best pulls have always included me actually leaving the ground. If I am in a caber funk, I can usually accredit it to a few things, and if I'm struggling with heavier or longer sticks, my lack of "pop" off the ground is a part of it.

So, in short, the caber is super easy, right? Wrong. Get your time in with one in your hands - you'll be glad you did, and so will the crowd.


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  • Daniel McKim

    Haha! Love that cue, Langford!

  • Sean Langford

    Good stuff, Dan. To keep the follow through, I always use the term “Hit the judge in the face!” Keeps the hands going past your head :)

  • Daniel McKim

    You bet, Sean! Glad they are helpful!

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