They're really not your typical sports, unless you consider hurling razor-sharp axes, climbing 80-foot poles, and cutting through massive blocks of wood with lightning-fast chainsaws normal.
But, at Squamish Days Loggers Sports, these events are all part of the show - and are all quite normal to the athletes who perform here year after year.
Loggers Sports competitions are true sporting events with true athletes who possess an incredible amount of strength, skill, stamina to come out on top. At Squamish Days Loggers Sports, widely considered the best Loggers Sports event in North America, the competition is fast, furious and very real.
The participants, like all athletes, must train and work diligently to reach the level of skill required to win any of the events. Athletes come from all over the world to participate for prize money, honour and respect in this tightly-knit sporting community.
With Squamish being a world-class destination for outdoor recreation, there is no better place in the world to grab some food and take in all the action.
Each participant competes in one of three classes: novice, intermediate or open. Two victories in a single event moves a competitor in novice or intermediate up to the next class.
All events are sanctioned under the Canadian Loggers Sports Association. Squamish Days has Canadian and World Championship events that are designated by CANLOG.
Bull's eye is the name of the game for this event where contestants throw a double-bladed axe at a 36-inch target sitting five feet off the ground. Their accuracy is truly amazing, especially considering the size and weight of the axes they throw.
Each contestant gets four throws; one for practice, and three to total their score. A bull's eye is worth five points with the remaining rings decreasing in value to a single point. Any part of the axe struck in the target counts. The throwing line is 20 feet from the target.
A definite crowd favourite, birling (also known as log rolling) is the event everyone knows about without ever having gone to a Loggers Sports show. Both men and women compete in this exciting competition where two birlers battle it out while keeping their balance rolling and spinning on a 15-inch diameter log in a pond of water. With a two-minute time limit for each match, the winner is determined by whoever wins two out of three matches.
The match starts with birling on a 15-inch log and if after two minutes no one wins the match then a 13-inch log is used. If the match continues with no winner, once again the log is replaced with an even smaller 12-inch log.
Butcher Block Chop
A 22-inch block of cottonwood is the victim in this event. Three men chopping through the log must take a minimum of eight swings but no more than 12.
In a head-to-head battle, two contestants race across logs secured in the birling pond carrying a 34-kilogram, eight-metre-long standard rigging choker. And this is just the start. Once clear of the frigid waters they must jump across two log obstacles and tie the choker to a dummy pole, then they are required to dash back to where they started to end the race in the midst of laughter and cheers from the audience.
A 20-inch log needs to be cut right through in the shortest time possible in this event. If the competitor isn't sweating, they're not working hard enough. Sweat, speed and strength are what it takes to win here. There is single-hand bucking, double bucking and the Jill and Jill competitions.
The aim is the same for all classes, with entrants cutting through the log as fast as possible. Crosscut saws are used to avoid buckling or sticking. Also, crucial to the athletes is a coach/oilier/wedge handler who helps the speed by squirting lubricant on the cut.
Obstacle Pole Chop
Contestants must run along an eight-inch pole fixed at an angle. Once at a designated point on the end, they must start their saws and in two matching cuts saw off the end of the alder, then run back to where they started. This is a timed event and takes about 12 to 14 seconds to complete. Penalties are incurred if the log is not cut at exactly the right point. This only came into being once chainsaws began to be used.
To watch some sawdust really fly, be sure to check out this event. High performance saws, also known as "hot" saws, are used for this loud event. Saws of 140 cc or less are used by open-class contestants who must cut a large block with two cuts, one from above and one from below. The Douglas fir, 20 to 22 inches in diameter, is mounted horizontally ready for cutting. The saws must have single-cylinder engines and be started manually. Modifications are allowed to be made to the saws, but must follow certain regulations. Novice contestants take part in this extremely exciting event as well, but have a 15-inch diameter log and must use a regular saw of 100 cc or less. Three cuts are made - one down, one up and one down again.
Competitors cut two staggered springboard notches in one side of a tree. Once the boards have been inserted, the entrants climb to the top board and chop halfway through the tree. Once completed, they return to the ground only to start up the other side of the tree to complete the cut. Intermediate and novice classes have modifications, which contestants are well aware of.
Considered one of the most strenuous and physically demanding of the events, tree climbers must ascend an 80-foot tree which tapers off at the top, and fly back down again before their competitor. Because of the size difference in the pole from bottom to top, adjustments to the climber's rope are made throughout the two-way climb. A lightning-fast thirty seconds is all it takes for top competitors to finish this exciting event.
Class A climbers ascend right to the top; however, the competition is made a little easier for intermediate and novice classes to encourage as much participation as possible. Intermediates climb to the 60-foot mark and back down. Novice climbers also go to the 60-foot mark, but the trip back is not timed. A junior class is often included in this event using a 20-foot tree.
Strength is a must in this event, though technique usually determines the winner. Footholds are cut on an anchored block where entrants must chop halfway through the block they are standing on and turn around to complete the chop from the other side.
Check out all the action during the free novice and intermediate loggers sports Saturday July 31 and the $10 world-class open loggers sports show Sunday Aug. 1. Both events start at 1:30 p.m. at the Al McIntosh Loggers Sports grounds on Loggers Lane.