It is believed that wife carrying originated on the northeast coast of England over twelve centuries ago when Viking raiders stormed villages and carried away women who were unwilling to leave their homes. However, after a period of nearly 900 years, wife carrying was introduced in 2008 in the form of a ‘Wife Carrying Race’ which takes place in Dorking.
The rules are simple. Males and females over the age of 18 can carry a ‘wife’, but this does not mean they have to be married to that person. The wife has to weigh over 50 kilos, otherwise tins of food will be placed inside a rucksack to ensure the wife is the correct weight. The wife has to wear a helmet just in case she is dropped, and if she is dropped, penalties will be imposed.
The wife can be carried piggyback style or over the shoulder, but in many cases, the wife is hung upside-down with her legs around her husband’s shoulders while she holds onto his waist. It does not look very dignified, but a couple from Finland, Taisto Miettinen and Kristiina Haapanen, have won the race may times using this technique!
The objective of the wife carrier is to carry his wife through an obstacle track consisting of two dry obstacles (sand and hurdles) and a wet obstacle usually around one metre deep. They have to get to the finishing line in the fastest time without penalties. spectators armed with water pistols and buckets of water, throw or fire water at the wife carriers just to make things a little more difficult.
The wife carrier who passes the finishing line first wins a barrel of ale and £250 which is used towards the expenses of entering the World Wife Carrying Championship which takes place in Finland.