Highland Games Basics: Caber Carry

Highland Games Basics: Caber Carry

When I first started throwing, I struggled greatly with the caber, and that’s no exaggeration. Just ask some of my fellow HASA members and they’ll tell you.. So, I did what any newbie would do - I turned to YouTube. Through my rigorous research, one man kept coming up as a dude who crushed monster cabers; legend was that there wasn't a caber this guy couldn't turn. Mike Smith is this man's name, and I quickly decided that if I want to be even pedestrian at this event (it took me five games before I even turned my first one), I had better replicate what this man was doing. His "pick" was pretty standard, but it was his carry that set him apart. Mike Smith would carry the stick so high, it was almost at shoulder level, it seemed. In each instance I saw, he made a conscience effort to get the caber positioned higher.  I'm no smart man, but I did the math:

Dude turns more monster cabers than anyone
No one carries it like him

Worth trying

Now, before I describe a caber carry or even defend it, know that I'm not saying there aren't plenty of different, and successful, ways to carry a caber. I'm just explaining how I do it and how I coach it.

We've already gone over the "pick" so let's jump into the carry. Once you've gathered yourself after catching this huge toothpick, work your hands up to chest level. So, what you have now is you're holding the caber with your elbows bent and the stick tucked in tight against your neck and shoulder.  It doesn't matter what side you carry the caber on (I throw right-handed but carry the caber on my left side), just that you're comfortable with the caber and feel as if you can somewhat control it … yeah, I know, I know..

I like to carry it high for a few reasons:

Less Drop - When I'm about to pull the caber and flip it, the "drop" of that caber is critical. If you jump stop your approach (don't, by the way, but again, more on that later), you're fighting yourself. The lower my carry is, the longer pull I have at the finish, and the more momentum I have to fit as I pull that stick all the way up. With a high carry, I can more easily hit that explosive finish position I want, without having to drop down in the basement to gather for a big turn.

Tight Shoulder - I want to feel in control of the caber. The higher I hold it and the tighter it is against my chest, shoulder and neck, the more control I feel that I have on it. I can pull it in closer to my body as needed for counter-balance and more easily give it a final "nudge" when it's time to pull it (more on that in another section). This all leads me to the last reason ...

Drive the Caber - I think a lot of people make the mistake of a simple mindset; don’t just run with the caber, drive it! With a high carry, I can really drive the caber - kind of like a football sled. You cannot carry a sled and run, you have to drive it forward – let’s do the same with a caber.  I even go to the extreme of keeping my head down during the entire "drive" phase.  In my thought process, if I can apply forward force to the caber, then I am speeding up the top end of the stick, making it that much more likely to turn.

And if you've not Googled Mike Smith by now, I've done you the favor of linking one of my all-time favorite caber tosses.

Carry on. 



  • Brandon Candler

    Thank you for these articles, I find them very helpful…and caber is a big challenge for me.

  • John Neill

    Good stuff as always Dan, thanks.

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