Chainsaws buzz as the rain pours down in the redwoods. Timbersports athletes can be found clambering up trees, throwing axes, attempting some extreme balance beam act with saws in hand – just an average Saturday for the HSU Timbersports team. They are determined to keep alive practices which once defined the timber industry.
According to Alex Beauchene, a forestry restoration major, “Logging sports events are rooted in tradition and competition, and can be applied to working in the woods whether that’s in the past or adapted to present day.”
Clinton Kafka, the team president, cheers on his team even in the gloomiest of weather. He chops wood and runs a chainsaw every Saturday practice as a way to destress from a week full of classes. Kafka gave a lay out of all the events that our lumberjacks love.
“As a team, we compete in all of the events at the competitions,” Kafka said. “There’s tree climbing, power saw, obstacle pole, choker setting, cross cut, double buck, horizontal chop, vertical chop, axe throwing, pulp toss, caber toss. And then, some more academic events that we have are timber cruising, plant identification, and traversing.”
Beauchene’s favorite discipline is climbing. It involves athletes climbing up a tree using gaffs (leg braces with a spike to stab into the bark) and a rope around the tree. In competition, climbing is a timed event to see who can reach the 50 foot mark the fastest. In his opinion, the hardest event is the single buck also known as the misery whip.
“The misery whip got its name from loggers felling large trees historically with a crosscut saw running it back and forth and back and forth,” Beauchene said. “In logging sports it has been adapted to single or double buck, where one or two people run a crosscut saw and race for the best time to cut a cookie (a cross section of log in the shape of a disk) from a log.”
Others pin the vertical chop as the toughest event, where athletes must chop through 14 inches of an upright vertical log in the quickest time possible.
One of the most visually-interesting events is the obstacle pole. In this event, athletes balance as they run up an inclined log with saw in hand, and once at the end they saw through the end producing a cookie before running back down. According to the team president it is hard to even get a qualifying time, let alone a fast one.
The skills learned here are often applicable career skills for quite a few majors, but that does not mean the team is limited to just forestry or management majors. The team welcomes everyone to try their hand at being a lumberjack, and students of all skill levels or majors can join the club or the class. The program is looking to build up their numbers since obstacles in the pandemic have impacted campus life.
Kyle Mantzouranis is a forestry operations major who found community in the logging sports team.
“My favorite thing about logging sports is the broad variety of events and how friendly and helpful the team is. They encourage everyone to try the events and are very supportive regardless of your skill level,” Mantzouranis said.
Cassandra Renteria, a junior on the team, thinks there is something special about practicing logging sports in Humboldt County which has so much history in the timber industry. She also believes there is something special about her team.
“I’m proud that as a team we still come out here rain or shine ready to put in work at practice every Saturday while being safe about it. I also love how the team makes me feel like I’m a part of something special,” Renteria said.
The team hopes to compete against other collegiate teams from around the West this season. Students may consider taking the logging sports class next semester to help support the Lumberjacks at Logtoberfest competition.