Swinging is one of the oldest forms of entertainment for many nations. Both the young and the old have swung in groups and alone. The tradition has been a part of the Estonian village culture for centuries. Swinging was the entertainment of the young, a traditional pastime, which remained unchanged for a long time in the folk calendar tradition. Hiiemäe, M., 1998: 448) – swing culture is an ancient part of being Estonian. One of the main reasons why kiiking is close to Estonians’ hearts is that our great-great-great grandparents very likely met each other on a swing—this is where we began. Swings have brought Estonians together for centuries. Boys and men often competed against each other to impress their sweethearts. Swinging also helped people to forget their worries, relax and to discuss their day. Swings have brought Estonians together for hundreds of years. The oldest known depiction of swinging over the spindle can be found in a four-volume study Topographische Nachrichten von Lief und Ehstland by August Wilhelm Hupel published at the end of the 18th century, which describes daily life in Estonia and Livonia.
The roots of kiiking as we know it today lie in 1993, when Ado Kosk from Pärnu built two Russian swings—one in Viljandi County and the other one on Muhu Island—which allowed swinging over the top bar. The inventor of kiiking used the swing on Muhu Island to pass over the spindle for the first time and this inspired him to create kiiking.
Kiiking is a sport invented and promoted in Estonia, which involves a person making a swing gain increasingly more momentum. The goal is to pass over the spindle with the longest shafts possible. Kiiking begins when a person’s feet are higher than the head—otherwise it is regular swinging.
The development of the kiiking swing as we know it today was started in 1996 by Ado Kosk from Pärnu. Ado also laid the groundwork for kiiking as a sport, as he was the first to swing around the spindle on a swing with adjustable shafts (in 1996).
The first metal swing with adjustable shafts and posts was built in the summer of 1996. The swing was designed with shafts that could be extended up to 6 metres and installed on the grounds of Sõduri farm in October. On the last day of the same month, the inventor of kiiking Ado Kosk was the first man to swing a full circle over the spindle for the first time, facing front. Egert Virkus was the first man to pass over the spindle backwards in May 1997. A few days before that, Estonian Television came to film the first swing installed on the grounds of Sõduri farm. During the filming, the shaft length of the swing was 3.8 metres, which was quite remarkable back then and the first person to go over the spindle with that length was Ado Kosk himself. Tarmo Männigo also tried to swing at that height, yet there was an accident: he let go of the shafts and fell. Artistic gymnastics coach Viktor Saaron, who witnessed the accident, recommended fastening hands to the shafts with special straps used by gymnasts. The foot binding method, which is still used today, was devised by Rein Lepiku only a month after Männigo’s accident—in June 1997.
Safety straps which prevent hands from sliding down the shaft along with the wrist straps were introduced as late as 1999. The kiiking technique developed along with the swings—in 1997, Egert Virkus created the squat-stand swinging technique still used today in a slightly modified form. In the same year, Ado Kosk started to measure the possible shaft lengths that would allow people to pass over the spindle and by the end of 1997, already three competition swings with different shaft lengths were ready to use. The first kiiking competition organised by the first Estonian kiiking club Vabariigi Võllimees took place in August 1997 at Kalevi Stadium in Pärnu.
Kiiking is not only a man’s sport—the first woman to pass over the spindle was Marju Üle who did it less than a year after the first metal swing with adjustable arms was erected.
Kiiking originates from regular swinging and thus there are both similarities and differences between the two. A regular swing does not allow passing over the top bar and its main purpose is leisure, whereas the aim of kiiking is to go over the spindle and the competition angle plays a great role in it.
Kiiking generally requires standing on the swing in upright position and using a specific squatting technique, which differs from regular swinging methods. As a safety measure, the swinger’s hands and feet are fastened to the shafts and the seat using special straps.
While regular swings can be made of different materials like wood, rope or metal, kiiking swings are strictly built of metal or modern composite materials. Regular swings have fixed shaft lengths which cannot be changed, whereas the adjustability of shaft length is one of the key features of a kiiking swing. Currently, there are three kiiking swing models and the maximum shaft length of the tallest swing is 8 metres. Regular swings (for instance, Russian swings) can be used by several people at once, but kiiking swings are generally designed for only one person.
History of the Swings
There are three different types of kiiking swings—KIKI-1, KIKI-2 and KIKI-3. The difference lies in shaft length—the greater the number of the swing, the longer the shafts. Whereas KIKI-1’s length is fixed, the posts of the other two are telescopic and can be extended.
The first swings built by Ado Kosk in 1993 resembled to Russian swings and were made of wood. This kind of swing could be used to pass over the top bar, yet the process was very difficult and time-consuming. The swings were developed further and improved and 1996 saw the introduction of the first metallic swing, which could easily be used to pass over the spindle.
The first competition swings were built by Ado Kosk and Rein Lepik in 1997—the swings were the first of the KIKI-2 type with adjustable shafts in the range of 3–6 metres. At the same time, the first KIKI-1 swings were also built with the shaft length of 3–4 metres. This type could be used by children and those new to kiiking. The production of KIKI-3 swings with adjustable shafts in the range of 4–8 metres started a year later. KIKI-2 and KIKI-3 models are used in competitions. The first shaft lengths set for different swings have remained unchanged.
The first kiiking swing was given to Pärnu Sports Club Vabariigi Võllimees.