Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Orienteering: The Sport of Geographers

Most of us are familiar with Geocaching, the hobby of individuals who go out with a GPS unit and finds hidden "treasure." While this is fine it is much more of geoscience gadgetry rather than an activity for geographers who enjoy the outdoors. There is a sport though for geographers who still love map reading and compasses. The sport is Orienteering.

Orienteering is a sport with several variations. The standard version involves either a team foot relay or individual foot relay. Other interpretations have participants on bikes, skis, wheelchairs, and even in canoes. Participants use highly detailed maps and a compass to locate the points where they have go and try to be the first one done with the course. Races can be as short as ten minutes or as long as one hundred minutes.

The geography of the game is fascinating. At the Association of American Geographers convention Diana Todd presented Examining A Sports Hegemony:Sweden's Domination of Orienteering. In it, Todd documents how the Swedes, Fins, Norwegians, and Swiss have come to dominate the sport and why America fails at it. The sport was originally made for the Swedish army and was quickly picked up by the nation. Many European countries have orienteering as a common recreation sport and map reading is a required skill in schools. These factors have lead to European domination while factors such as America's geography program are... well.. um... not as good. The lack of geographic interest reflects in the United States' performance in Orienteering. The United States has never won an international championship of any sort. There are only 67 recognized orienteering clubs in the United States compared to 665 clubs in Sweden.

Catholicgauze is seriously considering joining or even started an orienteering club. If you want more information on orienteering from rules to joining clubs check out either the International Orienteering Federation of the US Orienteering Federation.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Just wondering ... did you ever go to an orienteering meet, or give more thought to starting an orienteering club? If so, what came of it?