Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Lumberjack World Championships and STIHL Timbersports Series

Timber anyone? The timber industry used to be very large in the United States and it is still an important industry here and in many parts of the world. Modern day lumberjacks and timber experts are very dedicated to their sport and have a loyal fan base and there are many timbersports competitions around the world.

The Lumberjack World Championships is held in Hayward, Wisconsin in July at the Lumberjack Bowl and is part of ESPN's Great Outdoor Games. Competitors come from all over the world and compete in sawing, chopping, pole climbing, log rolling, and boom running, for several men's and women's titles (more than 21 events), and compete for the best time in most events. I'm not sure how the participants are selected. Apparently log rolling is being taught at schools in some places, and it seems that many of the champions come from families with a history of timbersports winning.

While the Lumberjack World Championships produces a world champion for each type of event, the STIHL Timbersports Series produces one all-around world champion lumberjack in their professional World Championship (they also have a collegiate championship). The participants are selected from applicants from around the world who must compete in other timbersports events and produce a resume showing how good they are, and the top 32 applicants are invited to the competition and compete in eight events. You can watch a recording of the STIHL Timbersports Series is shown on ESPN2 if you can figure out when it is on, but I've got too much going on to watch.

I remember a long time ago I got to use a single bucking and a double bucking saw at a scout camp near Sarnia, Canada and also at the BSA's National Jamboree. It's a lot of fun to saw against some friends. If I did sawing like that every day then I would be in really, really good shape. I had a friend who wanted to get into shape really quickly, so he started chopping wood every day and it worked.

A few years ago I lived in Eau Claire, Wisconsin (Western Wisconsin) for six months and I also lived up in Grand Rapids, Minnesota (Northern Minnesota) for eight months and the timber and logging industry is definately a strong part of the heritage of Wisconsin and Minnesota and is still a major part of the economy there, though modern lumberjacks use things like cut-to-length timber harvesters and other large machines that are very efficient at clearing timber. I stopped and watched one once and it was almost mesmerizing. The thing grabs the tree at the base of the trunk, cuts it, tips over the tree, shoots the tree through and cuts off all the limbs, and shoots it back the other way and then slices the tree into pieces of equal length, and someone told me the machine's computer records how many board feet and how many logs were cut. Then another machine picks up the logs and puts them on a truck. It only takes about two people to clear timber with this method.

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