14 min read

End of year special!

liftingstones.org end-of-year special - the 2023 year in review!
End of year special!
The Sannomiya Unosuke statue at Usuki Hachiman Shrine, from my trip in 2023.

At the end of last year, I decided to write a special edition of the newsletter to reflect upon the previous 12 months and to publicly announce some plans for 2023.

Last year's review went down so well that I decided I should do it again. So here we are: the liftingstones.org 2023 year in review.

Here's your list of topics. Feel free to jump around to the ones that interest you most:

  • 2023 overview
  • 2023's articles
  • Looking back at 2023's plans
  • The Dinnie Stones pin
  • Looking at the wider community
  • Goals for 2024
  • Thank you! Plus winter website updates


First, let's talk about some growth stats before getting into what happened this year.

In short, 2023 has been the biggest year yet for liftingstones.org! If you read last year's review, you may think that sounds familiar; I said exactly the same thing about 2022.

Traffic (i.e., the number of visitors / pageviews) to the site more than doubled again this year. Mathematicians will tell you that's over 4 times higher than the amount of traffic in 2021. That's insane to think about.

In line with traffic growth, the number of subscribers to this newsletter more than doubled compared to this time last year too! Perhaps if I talked about the newsletter a bit more and moved the sign-up form from the very bottom of pages, there would be more people getting these emails in their inboxes. But I'll worry about that another day.

Considering how niche of a topic stonelifting is, this kind of growth is incredible. If I get even a tiny fraction of the people visiting the site excited about stonelifting and its history & culture, I've done my job.

2023's articles

This year, I published a total of 10 new articles, bringing the total number of articles on the site to 43!

Interestingly, of those 10 articles, only half were written exclusively by me. The other half were written by some incredible guest writers. And those numbers don't even count the 2 mini ebooks Sean Urquhart and I put together!

If you missed any articles this year, here they are in order:

I kicked things off in January with an article about Switzerland's Unspunnen Stone (or rather stones). When I first started researching the Unspunnen Stone, I didn't anticipate the story twisting and turning so many times. It has to be one of the most storied stones in existence, and it's a little sad that it's not more well-known. The Steinstossen at the 2023 Arnold classic definitely got more people curious, so that was great to see.

The Unspunnen Stone — liftingstones.org
Switzerland’s most famous throwing stone has a rocky history of theft!

In 2023's first guest article, Jamie Gorrian tells his story of the stones of Sheriffmuir, the Wallace Plinth, and how he revived stonelifting on the site of the broken Wallace Putting Stone.

Sheriffmuir stones — liftingstones.org
Reviving the ancient lifting site where the Wallace Putting Stone once sat.

Sean Urquhart reached out after my previous year in review, offering to write an article about how he trains for stonelifting. After sending over a huge draft crammed with information, we divided the article into 2 parts and created a training template / ebook in April.

Since then, Sean's training article have become an essential resource for serious people who want to take their stonelifting to the next level.

Stonelifting training part 1: Structure — liftingstones.org
How I structure my training to prepare for stonelifting tours.
Stonelifting training part 2: The workout — liftingstones.org
What workouts look like when I train for a stonelifting tour.

During my trip to Japan, I spent some more time researching Sannomiya Unosuke - one of Japan's historic strongmen - and I found that an official resource was wrong: He was never a sumo wrestler!

Because of that mistake, my original article about Japan's heaviest power stone contained misinformation for a couple of years. It was a pretty significant error, so I completely revisited the article. And since I visited the stone myself, the article has some nice new photos and too!

大盤石 — Japan’s heaviest power stone — liftingstones.org
The heaviest lifting stone in Japan, lifted by the strongest man of the Edo period.

My friend - who goes by heihei (へいへい) online - over at chikaraishi.fc2.net linked to the article too.

The corrections themselves were pretty interesting, and I wanted to explain how the errors came to be. That spawned a new category of article for the site: Corrections.

Sannomiya Unosuke was not a sumo wrestler — liftingstones.org
Despite credible sources and other seemingly good evidence, Sannomiya Unosuke was not a sumo wrestler.

After the success of his previous training articles, Sean Urquhart came back after his Ireland trip with a guide to peaking for a stonelifting tour. Like his other articles about training, this was very well received by the community, and it's essential reading for anyone planning a tour.

Peaking for a stonelifting tour — liftingstones.org
How to peak your training and successfully demonstrate your strength for a stonelifting tour.

The next article is one I haven't called out in a newsletter before. As part of the site's stone directory, there are a few small articles dedicated to the locations of stones in popular countries - like Scotland and Iceland. However, given Ireland's growth in popularity, I decided to add an article listing the Irish stones on the site, too.

Irish Lifting Stone Locations — liftingstones.org
Plan your stonelifting trip to Ireland with our lifting stone directory!

My original plan for October's article was to share a pair of stones in the Japanese alps. However, after a surprise email from Richard Pretti a few weeks earlier, I changed my plans and published his incredible work highlighting some of Jeju Island's stonelifting legends featuring some strong women.

Not only that, but Richard also shared dozens of stone locations that he'd found across the island during his research. The most exciting discovery was that stonelifting on the island isn't dead like I feared a few years back.

Jeju’s stonelifting legends — liftingstones.org
Three stonelifting legends from South Korea’s Jeju Island.

Similar to the article about Ireland's lifting stone locations, I decided to create one for Japan too. A few people reached out to me asking questions, especially after Martins Licis' Strength Unknown episode, so it just made sense.

Japanese Lifting Stone Locations — liftingstones.org
Plan your stonelifting trip to Japan with our Japanese lifting stone directory!

2023's final article was one I wanted to write for years. And I finally published it in November to coincide with the Kyushu sumo tournament in Fukuoka. I highlight Kushida Shrine and the huge group of stones dedicated by some of the greatest sumo wrestlers of all time.

Are you stronger than a sumo wrestler? — liftingstones.org
Fukuoka’s Kushida Shrine displays stones dedicated by some of the strongest sumo wrestlers in history.

I hope you've enjoyed reading 2023's articles as much as I enjoyed researching, writing, and editing them!

I want to give another massive thanks to all of the guest authors this year: Jamie Gorrian, Sean Urquhart, and Richard Pretti. The community is lucky to have such passionate people excited about sharing stonelifting culture around the world.

Reflecting on 2023's plans

For me, re-reading plans I wrote a year ago is a little weird. It takes me back to my past mindset, and it reveals only what I predicted was possible in 12 months with the knowledge I had at the time.

Retrospectively, I get to see whether I was more optimistic or pessimistic - or just completely wrong about the direction I planned to go.

With that in mind, let's recap 2023's plans and check in to see what happened.

Publish fewer articles

My rationale for publishing fewer articles was to help free some of my time to focus on my other goals for the site. In 2022, I published 12 articles, so I needed to publish fewer than that.

In total, I published 10 new articles this year - 2 fewer than 2022, sure. But I also published 2 mini ebooks with Sean Urquhart. In the end, I definitely spent more time on the articles this year compared to last.

Despite doing more than planned, this was a bit of a 'failure' in my eyes. I wanted to spend a chunk of that time working on other stuff and I just got carried away with too many cool articles.

The problem with this goal is that I didn't come up with a real figure as a benchmark. I should have capped the number of articles or the amount of time I could spend per article.

Send fewer newsletters

Here, I had intended to reduce newsletter frequency to about once every two months or so. Again, the idea was to spend more time on other stonelifting projects. But I ended up sending out a newsletter almost every single month. The exceptions being May and June when I was traveling.

Although I didn't 'achieve' my goal, I don't think it was a big deal. You really enjoy getting these emails in their inbox. And looking back over the last two years of newsletters, my cadence is pretty consistent - about 10 per year.

Traveling for stonelifting

You’re probably sick of me talking about my trip to Japan to visit, lift, and document stones.

I still have some articles to write from my trip, and I'll almost certainly be returning to Japan for more. So I'm pretty happy with this one!

Some secret projects

One of my secret projects this year was the Dinnie Stones Enamel Pin. I took it from a quick-and-dirty concept to a real physical product for people to buy pretty quickly.

The whole project was a bit of a risky idea - I never asked anyone if it was something they wanted. But it was something I wanted. I thought it was fun and interesting. There are others like me, right? Luckily, that's true.

I think this goal was a success too. Had the pins been less popular, it would be a whole different story.

Sadly, I didn't get a chance to work on any of the other secret projects I had in mind this year. Again, that was mostly due to spending so much time on articles...

Overall, 2/4 of the goals going to plan is decent. The other two goals 'failed' because I did more than I intended for them. I don't think those extra articles or newsletters were a bad thing. They just took up time I wanted to spend elsewhere.

Dinnie Stones enamel pin

I can't thank everyone enough for their support with the pins. Like I mentioned, this was a bit of a risky project, so to see people excited about them and even buying them as Christmas gifts is just amazing. I love seeing photos when they arrive at their new homes.

As of writing, you've bought 2/3 of the initial stock of pins! Of the remaining stock, a few have minor manufacturing flaws - so I may sell these as 'seconds' at a discount. The rest will go back on sale in the new year. I haven't yet decided what to do once they sell out.

The funny thing is, in terms of opportunity cost, liftingstones.org would be much better off if I spent my time doing any other paid work instead of working on the pins. But when you think too much about accounting and optimizing numbers, you lose out on creativity.

Whilst funding liftingstones.org from pin sales has covered a few months of costs, the real benefit was bringing something tangible - and a little delightful - to the world. And I think the pins did that wonderfully.

A few people have suggested I create pins for others stones, like the Húsafell stone and the Inver stone. It would be fun to do those too. But right now, I'm not planning any new pin designs.

Wider stonelifting

Beyond liftingstones.org, 2023 has been a massive year for stonelifting in general, so I wanted to quickly highlight some of that too.

David Keohan uncovered and documented loads of Irish Stones and went on the first Irish stonelifting tour. Ireland's stones have quickly gained swathes of followers thanks to David's work and all of the publicity he's receiving - it's fantastic to see, and I can't wait for more stories from Ireland in 2024.

Japanese stonelifting has finally seen some love in the west with Martins Licis' Strength Unknown episode, David “Tamotsu” Dunlap’s videos, and some of my writing. Too many people still see stonelifting as something exclusive to Scotland and Iceland. But there's so much more around the world.

Speaking of Scotland, Scotland has seen some new discoveries with a handful of newly uncovered stones this year, which is wonderful to see.

I'm seeing more stonelifting competitions cropping up through the year, too. So I'm looking forward to seeing those grow in 2024!

2024 has big shoes to fill. But if things continue like they have in 2023, it's going to be another great year for stonelifting!

Goals for 2024

So, what are the plans for liftingstones.org in 2024? To be honest, they're a little boring: They're basically the same as the goals for 2023.

1. Publish fewer articles (but actually do it this time)

As much as I love researching, writing, and publishing articles, it still takes up a lot of time. And guest articles actually take even longer to publish!

My current plan is to publish a maximum of 6 articles in 2024 - compared to the 10 in 2023 and 12 in 2022. I want 2024's articles to be even higher quality, too. A cadence of every other month seems reasonable. And there will still be some guest articles!

Having said that, newsletter frequency will be mostly unchanged. i.e., I'll write and publish a newsletter (almost) every month.

Reducing the total number of articles should actually allow me to work on other stuff - whatever that may be...

2. Stonelifting projects

The Dinnie Stones enamel pin was one of 2023's 'secret projects'. And it was fun to work on - it turned out to be a highlight of the year. So I want to continue working on other stuff besides writing.

I have way too many ideas that I'm considering working on. Some huge, some small. I'll experiment with some as part of my New Year exploration (more on that in a minute).

Like before, if a project materializes, you'll be the first to know about it as a newsletter subscriber!

3. Stonelifting travels

There are currently 16 countries represented on the liftingstones.org map. And I suspect that number will increase in 2024. Which is to say that there are far too many places I'd love to visit to lift and document stones. So I want to keep doing it.

One trip is already being planned and booked. And there's another that may happen in 2024, but I haven't confirmed it yet.

Beyond being fun for me, these trips allow me to bring you even better content, highlighting stories of stones you may not have known before.

Thank you! (Plus winter website updates)

Once again, I'd like to thank you so much for reading - whether you subscribed to this newsletter yesterday or back when I first started it.

Every year, around the New Year, I give myself a few days to explore anything I like (which is how I started liftingstones.org in the first place). Over the last few years, I’ve spent some of that time building new stuff for the site - like the complete site redesign, or this newsletter. This year is no different.

You may have already seen some of these winter updates, and there are more to come (I'll announce all of the interesting ones in the January newsletter). But, I have a request for you.

If you have an idea or a suggestion for the site (it can be anything at all, big or small), please let me know by replying to this email. If your idea sounds interesting, fun, or useful, I’ll create it. If I'm already planning or building it, I'll send you an update on how it's going! This includes content too.

There are no stupid suggestions or ideas here. If you've ever thought "it would be cool if...", or "I wish I could..." please share them.

Finally, I hope you have a Happy New Year!

In strength,


Latest articles

Are you stronger than a sumo wrestler? — liftingstones.org
Fukuoka’s Kushida Shrine displays stones dedicated by some of the strongest sumo wrestlers in history.
Jeju’s stonelifting legends — liftingstones.org
Three stonelifting legends from South Korea’s Jeju Island.

The liftingstones.org shop

Dinnie Stones enamel pin

Inspired by the world’s most famous lifting stones, this liftingstones.org original pin is perfect for showing off your love of stonelifting by pinning it to your gym bag, clothes, or anywhere else.