Highland Games Basics: The Caber “Pick”

Highland Games Basics: The Caber “Pick”

Lately, people have asked for some insights and “tips” for the various events. Yet, I’ve been reminded that the things I might think of today, are not the things I focused on when I first started out and, many times, first-timers aren’t privy to that information unless they attend a clinic or have someone personally helping them. This is the beginning of a series of blog entries regarding the different events and some “initial” or “beginning” tips and technique points of focus.

Today, let’s break down an aspect of the sport’s signature event, the Caber “pick.” This is the first movement of picking the caber up off the ground and gathering it into your hands and against your shoulder, soon to make your approach with the stick.

After the caber is stood up to you, interlock your fingers around the caber with your palms pinching the stick. In my opinion, there are a few things that are imperative to a strong and controlled “pick.” And, it goes without saying, if you can’t establish a good “pick” then you’ll struggle with the rest of the throw.

  1. Stance

I see a lot of first-time throwers making a grave mistake in how they approach the caber and begins with the stance. The natural thought is to have a more narrow base and drop your butt, however, that isn’t the answer. Start with a nice, wide base, with your feet well outside your shoulders.  Think of a wide squat stance or almost a sumo deadlift stance.

  1. Level Back

The error many throwers make is that, with the narrow stance, they drop the hips down towards the ground. You want to keep your back almost level with the ground when you’re about to “pick” the caber. With the more level back your hips and butt will be back and away from the caber. Another cue might be to think of making a table with your back. Now, your shoulders will eventually end up a bit lower than your hips, but make sure it's not the other way around!

  1. Hands to the Ground

Sometimes, the reasoning for an “over pick” (when you toss the caber up to catch it and it sails too high and out of your hands),  is simply that you’ve “picked” the caber with your hands too far up the caber and off the ground. Work your hands (remember, inter-locked and your palms applying the pressure), down the stick until your get them just off the ground. Do not begin the “pick” until your hands are down close to the ground. To make the “pick” as smooth and clean as possible, you want to minimize the distance you must actually toss the stick off the ground and into your hand. Once your hands are close to the ground, pinch the stick with your palms and pull the caber up off the ground and quickly move your hands under the stick.

Now, I know some people teach to have a few fingers on the side of the stick while the rest create the “basket” for it to set in; I’m not a big fan of that. The thought is that you also “flip” or “tip” the caber in the air while you’re pulling it up on the finish. I will cover the finish later, but know that I’m a believer in having a strong handle and pull on the stick. Again, let’s cover that later, but for now, catch that caber and make your “pick” a strong one by placing the stick strong and full into the “basket” you make with your hands.

Again, if you can’t master the “pick,” then the rest of your throw could be very problematic.

3 comments

  • Daniel McKim

    Bernard! Thanks, man! Glad they are helpful, and glad you’re enjoying HEAVY CONFESSIONS! Haha!

  • JIm Lundy

    I can usually imitate most anyrhing straight off the block but with the three try’s with the caber at my first event, Presscott, I failed to flip the stick. Thank you for your interesting tutorial. I’m recently “off the couch” and at the Presscot games couldn’t get my fingers between the ground and the caber bottom to form the basket. Figured I lacked flexibility after a few years of non excercise. However I’m now thinking had I used your leg spreading and back to the ground instead off the feet close together in a V-notch I could have easily formed the caber, hand basket, ground interface. I will practice this at the Verde practice this week end. Again, thanks for your tutorial!!!!

  • Bernard Fryer

    As someone who hopes to enter my first event as a novice next year this series of blog entries will become my “bible” per se. Thank you for starting this. FYI- I am really enjoying heaving confessions. The first few chapters had me crying. Being 6-5 310 pounds, I can relate.

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