..Barry Napier..

Wellie Wanging

Take off your Wellington boot, then hurl it as far as it will go. That is Wellie Wanging. Want to try it? There's even a championship.

No one would guess this "freestyle sport" was invented by the British, would they? Probably in Yorkshire by farmers who could fling a boot whilst pertily dodging cowpats.

New Zealand and Finland also have Wellie Wanging competitions, but call it Gum Boot Throwing. Well, the wellie's on the other foot when they compete in Britain!

The New Zealand town of Taihape dares to call itself the Boot-Throwing capital of the world, and Finland holds a world championship annually. Yorkshiremen may not be the sole practitioners of this bootiful sport, but when they play they don't put a foot wrong.

Named after the hessian boots worn by the Duke of Wellington and worn by the aristocracy, the boots came down to earth when land-workers used them to sludge around in muddy fields. Today, the boots are vulcanised.

In Africa natives break the monotony of working down mines by tying bells on wellie boots. They then stamp up and down in a spirited Wellie-Boot Dance. Maybe "wellie wanging" lost something in the translation? Anyway, if you want to see this dance, go to the waterfront in Cape Town. Or, listen to Paul Simon's "Graceland" and hear the song "Gumboots."

Most wellies thrown in Britain are black with red or green soles, but Canadians prefer green ones and Americans like them black with yellow soles. Some colours are heavier than others.

Think it's all a bit free-range? No sir. You can only fling your boot within defined boundaries. A bit like top tennis players who mustn't hit the ball outside the white line. That makes the sport skilful, especially as competitors can hurl from either a running or standing position.

Recognising the professionalism required, many villages hold Wellie Wanging competitions for locals to show off their prowess to their loved ones, and to see-off the local big-heads who think their prize for beer mat collecting is the bees-knees. The skill and determination reached their zenith in 2005 at the 4th Annual Dunston Park Fete. Thatcham, Britain.

Dunston Park Church knew it was up against it. So, it joined forces with the Buttercups Baby and Toddler Group to organise the Fete. A force to be reckoned with! No one wanted to look a fool, even though it rained, making the Wellie Wanging course slippery and muddy. Men were found flexing their biceps in the beer-tent and women practised by lifting wallets from the pockets of partners. They were serious, so the event became news in far-flung corners of the field and beyond. To add to the excitement the raffle was announced by a radio presenter nobody had heard of.

Just in case you were wondering who won the adult Wellie Wanging event at the Bow Brickhill Show in 2001, it was the lad himself, Nick Circuitt, who flung his wellie a magnificent 141 feet. The smallest of his electrical-business family, he was known as Short Circuitt, yet, despite his dimunition he currently sparks a lot of interest. But he didn't win "Bowling for the Pig" - Martin Coates won that (though there was some controversy over the alleged involvement of Nancy Trigsworth). If you fancy your chances against these Olympians, get to Bow Brickhill this summer. It's near Milton Keynes.

It's best to build up to Finland and the world championship, by entering smaller events, otherwise you might suffer pre-game nerves (called Wellie-Belly, named after the first female winner, Nellie Kelly. Hence the original diagnosis was called "Nellie Kelly Wellie Belly"). When you've mastered Wellie Wanging, you might like to try other British field throwing sports, like flinging Mobile Phones, Biscuits, Shovels, Moon Rocks, Knives, Black Puddings, Weights, and Rakes.

Are you a Wellie Wanger? Want to be a champion at something when your only success has been to get up on time for work? Then make your way to an English village, Finland, or New Zealand, during gumboot season. One champion won a toffee-apple. Go on, don't be scared...at least you won't die with your boots on.

© April, 2006, Barry Napier.

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