At the Lumberjack World Championships, there’s never a dull moment. Razor-sharp axes and saws of all kinds cut through logs of aspen. When the contestants are not chopping wood, they are climbing it, running on it, rolling on it, up to 90 feet in the air.
Over the course of a summer weekend in Wisconsin, more than 20 different events take place.
The festivities begin with the ceremonial log-roll lighting of the torch. “It’s been called the ‘Olympics of the Forest,'” said Nancy Knutson, who does marketing for the Lumberjack World Championships. “This year we’ve got competitors from the Czech Republic, Sweden, Japan, Canada and the United States.”
The Lumberjack World Championships have been held in the small town of Hayward, Wisconsin, since 1960. “If it weren’t for Lumberjack, we wouldn’t be standing here,” Knutson said.
“Was Logging Hayward’s Industry?” asked correspondent Connor Knighton.
“It was. That’s why Hayward is here.”
More than a century ago, loggers came to this part of Wisconsin to enter the white pine forests. Here, and in lumber towns across the country, loggers sometimes place bets on who can cut the fastest or climb the highest. Those informal competitions eventually morphed into a full-fledged sport.
Today, competitive lumberjacks can be found everywhere from local fairs and festivals to televised events internationally.
Matt Koger is a full-time lumberjack athlete who competes and trains year-round. He has traveled from his home in Grafton, West Virginia, to events around the world with his trusted axes.
Neoughton said, “You have a bag full of six axes. What kind of killer does the TSA think you are?”
“It’s always challenging to travel on airplanes and stuff,” laughed Koger.
While some prize money is involved, the vast majority of these contestants have other jobs. They do it for the love of logging. “It’s very hard to make a living in a competitive lumberjack game right now,” Koger said. “You have to travel, and you have to win. This is probably the hardest part!”
But Cogar makes winning easy. He holds two world records and holds a total of seven titles at the Stihl Timbersports US Championship. The first time he won first place, he beat his second cousin, Arden Koger Jr., who lives a few hours away from Matt. They often train together.
When Matt was just a kid, Arden was racking up records and titles. “Axes and saws have taken me around the world,” Arden said. “I’ve been to Europe 26 times, and I’ve never had to pay for a trip.”
Between contests, Arden is racking up billable hours as a lawyer. There are many mementos from his father’s career in his office. Arden Koger Sr. was one of the first nationally-known lumberjack athletes whose records were set in the 1970s. Even then hasn’t been broken.
“My father was not an educated man,” Arden said. “My father stopped going to school when he was in third grade. But he always wanted me to get as much education as he could because he wanted me to do something different from what he did. Sports only There was one thing about Tha was common. And so, the reason I love it so much is because that’s how I got to know my dad.”
Over the years, the sport has expanded to include an increasing number of lumberjills. One of the best is Martha King; She won the women’s all-round at the World Championships in 2019.
“Women cut into many bite incidents,” she said. “My favorite is the underhand — that’s where you stand on a block and bite between your legs.”
“It sounds terrifying, though: what if something goes wrong? Like, the majority of It could be wrong!” Knighton laughed.
“I don’t even think about it now,” replied the king. “My mom couldn’t see me at all. She used to say, ‘I just have to close my eyes and listen for your work.'”
Back home in Chad’s Ford, Pennsylvania, King works for his family tree service business. It is a job that provides an unlimited supply of practice wood. It also provides a link to the world that produced these wood-cutting techniques.
“Every event we do, every discipline in which we compete, is based on a traditional practice in forestry,” King said. “Once the tree is down to the ground, it can be 100, 150 feet tall. How are you gonna move that thing? So, that’s where the underhand chop comes in.”
King made it to the finals at all of her events in Wisconsin this year, and finished fifth overall in the women’s category. Lumbergills Erin Lavoie and Stephanie Knaud finished first.
Matt Koger won almost all of his events, taking home his third men’s overall world championship title.
It’s such a small world that most of these athletes know each other; They see each other in all the same events, incidents – who knows? – The future lumberjack or Jill athlete may be sitting in the bus stand.
King said, “We’re highly competitive, but at the end of the day, if we want to see the sport succeed, we have to work together. It’s an amazing community, and it’s really enriched my life.” “
for more information:
Story Produced by Aria Shevelson. Editor: Carol Ross.