Axes, saws and saw dust will be flying when the WSU Logger Sports Club team goes up against nearly 100 other student lumberjacks at the 2007 Association of Western Forestry Clubs Conclave.
The conclave will be held March 14 through 16, at the Associated Foresters Arena, located on the University of Idaho Plant Science and Tree Nursery Farm just off the Troy highway, east of Moscow. Events open to the public are offered daily from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. and a barbecue and awards ceremony will be held on Friday the 16th after competition has ended. All events, including the barbecue, are free.
Opening day events include chain saw races, which will be broadcast by ESPNU.
WSU’s Logger Sports team is “on a two-year winning streak,” said club vice president Josh Goicoechea, and is the reigning regional champion. Logger Sports will be facing some tough competition at the conclave, though, with teams from all over the Pacific Northwest—and beyond—showing up to compete in feats of physical and intellectual prowess.
Conclave events include chopping and sawing events, choker setting, and chain saw races, which Goicoechea described as “the NASCAR of logging competitions.” Of course no timber sports competition would be complete with log rolling, pole climbing and axe throwing, and there’ll be plenty of that.
Goicoechea said that in the axe throwing event, “razor-sharp instruments are hurled at high velocity. The axes typically have seven-inch faces, are made of surgical-quality steel, and cost $350. That’s just the head. Some of the best axes are made in New Zealand, where logging sports are a national obsession.”
Beyond the classic physical competitions, teams will be intellectually challenged as well. They’ll compete in feats of timber cruising, which requires competitors to estimate the value of a live tree based on their visual calculation of its board footage; dendrology, which tests the woodland knowledge of competitors by challenging them to identify forest species; and traversing, where participants compete to be the first to find their way to a certain point in the forest using only a compass.
In addition, there are a couple other events which Goicoechea described as highly entertaining “circus events,” including a tug-o-war and Highland-style caber (timber) toss.
“We have a winning reputation,” said Goicoechea, “but as serious as the competition gets, cooperation rules the days among the participants. You don’t want anyone to look stupid, and everyone places a strong emphasis on safety.” Safety equipment includes chain-mail socks and shin guards, hard hats, and gloves.
Each timber sports team is composed of four men and four women, and each school may have two teams. Each team member typically competes in up to five events.
The conclave competitions will result in regional bragging rights for the winning team, but will also act as a qualifying event for the Stihl Timbersports series of professional competitions.
In addition to teams from WSU and UI, teams from around the region will be competing, including those form U.C. Berkeley; Cal Poly San Luis Obispo; Colorado State University; University of Nevada, Reno; California State University, Humboldt; University of Montana; Oregon State University; Flathead Valley Community College; and Central Oregon Community College.
Sponsors and donors include ESPNU, which bought the TV rights for the chain saw races; Avista, which donated poles for the pole climb; Stihl Northwest, which provided chain saws; Stimson Timber, which allowed the WSU team to take out two log-truck loads of wood for the competitions.
Of Stimson’s donation, Goicoechea said, “It’s really important to have high-quality wood with the consistency that only comes from trees taken from the same locale. Using high-quality timber insures that expensive equipment doesn’t get damaged and helps keeps competitors safe.”
When asked how he got involved with Logger Sports, Goicoechea said, “One day I saw a guy wearing a Logger Sports T-shirt in the elevator in Stevenson dormitory [on the WSU campus in Pullman]. I asked the guy what Logger Sports was and he replied, ‘You’re big. Come to a meeting.’ So I did—and the rest is history.”
For more information, contact Brian Austin, University of Idaho Forest Resources, (208) 885-7035.
Update: March 14, 2007:
Conclave has begun!
Read this update in WSU Today.
Logger Sports Club members Josh and Willy check the edge on their axes.
The faces on these high-quality axes are razor sharp – literally.