Arm wrestling has existed in Nova Scotia since the early days of fishermen, farmers, and lumberjacks testing their strength against one another. Later on, competitions were organized and champions were crowned. However, problems arose as to the legitimacy of titles. In the early 1980's, there were as many as 3 competitions in the province claiming to be hosting the Provincial Championships. There was no provincial body organized that set out the standards for rules, refereeing and table dimensions. Rules varied from competition to competition as did the arm wrestling tables. Some tables had wood-rimmed elbow pads and wooden pin pads - definitely an incentive not to lose. Referees had no formal training, they were chosen by friendship or availability.
The Nova Scotia Arm Wrestling Association was created in 1985 by Rick Pinkney, who had trained for five years in Edmonton with Canadian Arm Wrestling President John Miazdzyk and Canadian and World Champion Tony Senger. The organization was incorporated as a non-profit association with Rick was its first president and Charlie Yorston as Vice-President.
The first year only a couple of tournaments were held, the first of which was at the Bedford Place Mall. Arm wrestling was not permitted in licensed establishments so the main venues were county fairs. To gain acceptance by the Nova Scotia Liquor License Board to hold competitions in licensed establishments, we had to prove ourselves. To do so, we held a tournament at the Village Gate tavern in Dartmouth. We weren't allowed inside the premises so a large flat bed truck was rented and parked outside the patio where everyone could view the action. Contestants had to walk out of the patio and up on the truck to compete. When the match was over, they went back to their seats. We must have impressed the inspectors because we were given the green light to start holding competitions inside licensed establishments. The N.S.A.W.A. is the only one allowed by the Nova Scotia Liquor and Gaming Commission to hold competitions in licensed establishments.
Tremendous growth was experienced the next few years as the sport took flight. Over a dozen tournaments a year were held, with 80 to over 100 entries at each tournament. The venues were filled to capacity as fans came out to cheer for the local favorite and boo some of the out-of-towners.
The first N.S.A.W.A. Provincial Championships were held in October of 1986 at the Atlantic Winter Fair in Halifax. This was an open event whereby arm wrestlers from outside the province were allowed to compete. A more experienced team from New Brunswick came down and won 6 of the 10 classes. However, the New Brunswick victory party ended the following year when Nova Scotia won 9 of 10 classes at their Provincial Championships. Since that time, both provinces have closed their championships to residents of their own province.
Since its inception, the N.S.A.W.A. has held over 200 competitions throughout the province; from Yarmouth to Glace Bay, from Bridgewater to Amherst and most towns in between. Top arm wrestlers travel from across Atlantic Canada to compete in Nova Scotia each year because of the high calibre of competition. In 1994, Nova Scotia hosted the Canadian Arm Wrestling Championships in Halifax. Nova Scotia won 3 National crowns and placed second in the team points behind Ontario. This same feat was accomplished again in 1999 in Grande Digue, N.B. In total, Nova Scotia Arm wrestlers have compiled over 20 National titles.
Today, the N.S.A.W.A. holds 6 sanctioned tournaments a year, a few local tournaments and the Provincial Championships. Fifteen years ago, the competitions were all open classes where somebody walking off the street could compete against a National Champion. Today, the classes are split between amateur and pro classes. They aren't really professionals, they're just very good, but for the lack of a better word we call them pros. They are now separated from competing against a newcomer. So you get the best of both worlds - the beginners have a fighting chance and you get to watch some of the best arm wrestlers in Canada go at it.