in the Netherlands, using poles to clear distances over rivers
Poles were used as a practical means of passing over natural obstacles in marshy places such as the province of Friesland in the Netherlands, along the North Sea, and the great level of the Fens across Cambridgeshire, Huntingdonshire, Lincolnshire and Norfolk. Artificial draining of these marshes created a network of open drains or canals intersecting each other. To cross these without getting wet, while avoiding tedious roundabout journeys over bridges, a stack of jumping poles was kept at every house and used for vaulting over the canals.
Distance pole vaulting competitions continue to be held annually in the lowlands around the North Sea. These far-jumping competitions (Frisian: Fierljeppen) are not based on height.
In his book The Mechanics of the Pole Vault, Richard Ganslen reports that the London Gymnastic Society under Professor Voelker held measured pole vaulting events in 1826, involving 1,300 participants and recording heights up to 10 ft 10 in (3.3 m). Other early pole vaulting competitions where height was measured took place at the Ulverston Football and Cricket Club, Lancashire, north of the sands (now Cumbria) in 1843. Modern competition began around 1850 in Germany, when pole vaulting was added to the exercises of the Turner gymnastic clubs by Johann C. F. GutsMuths and Friedrich L. Jahn. In Great Britain, it was first practiced at the Caledonian Games.
Initially, vaulting poles were made from stiff materials such as bamboo or aluminum. The introduction of flexible vaulting poles in the early 1950s made from composites such as fiberglass or carbon fiber allowed vaulters to achieve greater height. Physical attributes such as speed, agility and strength are essential to pole vaulting effectively, but technical skill is an equally if not more important element. The object of pole vaulting is to clear a bar or crossbar supported upon two uprights (standards) without knocking it down.
In 2000, IAAF rule 260.18a (formerly 260.6a) was amended, so that "world records" (as opposed to "indoor world records") can be set in a facility "with or without roof". This rule was not applied retroactively, With many indoor facilities not conforming to outdoor track specifications for size and flatness, the pole vault is the only world record set indoors.