Obscure Sports Weekly: Stihl Timbersports

If you’re looking for a sporting event unlike any other that requires no coordination with a ball and can put your flannel collection to good use, timbersports may be for you. In competitions that would make American folklore Paul Bunyan proud, this series of lumberjack competitions test strength, speed and accuracy in the logging activities of chopping, sawing and deforestation.

The Stihl timbersports is a series of woodwork-skilled competitions for lumberjack athletes. The events are based on traditional logging skills and performed with axes and saws. This sport is competed on the professional and collegiate levels.

Stihl is a manufacturer of industrial logging equipment best known for chainsaws, and in 1985 the company began organizing what is now the world’s top lumberjack competition. In over 62 countries, 20 million viewers annually tune in to watch the televised competition in the “Original Extreme Sport.”

The six events in Stihl Timbersports are springboard, stock saw, underhand chop, single buck, standing block chop and hot saw.

In springboard, competitors use an axe to chop a notch in a nine-foot pole. The notch must be able to hold a springboard approximately at waist-level as the competitor will then stand on top of the primary board to chop a notch higher on the pole. In the secondary notch, another board is placed for the competitor to stand on while chopping the top of the nine-foot pole off, completing the event.

In stock saw, the competitors have identical logs and tools, such as a chainsaw with 20-inch bar and 33RSC3 chain. This timed event measures the accuracy of the sawyer when cutting twice through a log, once from top to bottom and second from bottom to top. Lines are drawn 4 inches and 8 inches into the log and will be the template that the sawyers must cut as close as possible to.

In underhand chop, competitors stand with their feet apart on a foot long log. In a timed race, the competitor must use an axe to sever the log between their feet. At some point they must turn around and finish the chopping from the log’s other side. The result is the competitor’s feet standing on two separate pieces of wood, hopefully unharmed from the axe that has been swinging between them.

In single buck, the competitor uses a crosscut saw to cut through 20 inches of white pine. While this is a solo timed event, the competitor has assistance in placing a wedge in the log as well as keeping the log lubricated.

In standing block chop, competitors use an axe to chop through approximately a foot of white pine. They can chop from either side of the wood, and the first to sever the wood wins.

In hot saw, competitors use individual chainsaws, of sorts. The saws’ motors are not that of traditional chainsaws, but rather these expensive pieces of equipment can be built from jet skis or snow mobiles. The chain materials are altered as well, whether it be in size or material. After this complete alteration in the chainsaw’s anatomy, hot saw is the loudest and least predictable of all the timbersports events. The performance aspect of the event requires competitors make three cuts through the log, measuring speed and accuracy.

The collegiate division of Stihl timbersports began in 2003. Today, there are 62 colleges competing in the Stihl timbersports collegiate series. They compete in only four of the professional events: stock saw, single buck, underhand chop and standing block chop. The top five teams continue on to the collegiate championship where one is crowned to be the lumberjack champion.

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