All you need to know about STIHL TimberSports

Over the weekend of October 19-20, 2018, about 8,000 spectators packed the Echo Arena in Liverpool to watch the best axe and saw-wielding men and women on the planet, cleave lumber with superhuman efficiency at the STIHL TimberSports World Championship. The event was extra special as it marks the first time the UK has hosted the event.

STIHL TimberSports carries a level of passion and prestige across the globe with its gripping history full of incredible international athletes and a growing worldwide fan base.

Although only distantly related to the scientific-practical world of arboriculture, STIHL TimberSports is all spectacle and for those with sap in their blood, it holds a gripping intrigue. Let's take a closer look at what it’s all about.

The Birth of STIHL TimberSports

Lumberjacks have contested each other’s skills in competition as far back as 19th century in Australia. The creation of STIHL TimberSports in 1985 in Wisconsin, USA marked a pivotal point in the professional evolution of logging-based contests. Rules were standardised for six events or disciplines that have competitors using an axe and a saw.

2001 saw Europe’s entry into the series. In 2012, the UK held their first National Championship event, which now runs every summer.

STIHL TimberSports Today

About 2,000 contestants across four continents participate in local and global series at STIHL TimberSports, with over 20 million viewers spectating on cable TV every year. Lumberjacks compete in the Men’s Professional and Rookie Divisions (for athletes 25 years old and under), and lumberjills compete in the Women’s Professional Division.

The World Championship Series has a Team Championship and an Individual Championship. The Team Championship features four athletes representing eight teams from qualified countries competing in a relay of four out of six events.

The Individual Championship features 12 of the best competitors from around the world facing off in all six events.

Four-time British champion Elgan Pugh put in a valiant effort in the 2018 STIHL TimberSports World Championship, placing 11th in the individual event. Team Australia took the Team Championship, and Australia’s Laurence O’Toole won the Individual Championship.

The STIHL TimberSports Disciplines

STIHL TimberSports entrants match their mastery over the use of the axe and the saw in six disciplines. Each discipline reflects the actions of traditional, hands-on logging, with each one demanding strength, speed, and strategy for success.

1. Underhand Chop

For this discipline, competitors stand on top of a horizontal log that’s 32 centimetres thick, which they have to chop all the way through on both sides. Cutting the wood block only on one side is not allowed.

The Great Britain national record for this event is 18.99 seconds set by Robert Chatley in 2016. The world record stands at 12:39 seconds set by Brayden Meyer from Australia in 2015.

2. Stock Saw

As the name implies, all the athletes must use the same STIHL MS 661 chainsaw to cut two discs of wood (or “cookies” as they’re colloquially called) from a 40-centimetre thick horizontal log.

Before the timer starts for the event, their saws are revved up and placed on the ground. They pick it up on the go signal and need to saw a vertical slice no more than 10 centimetres thick once upward and once downward.

The Great Britain national record is 10.49 seconds set by Alex Laurie in 2015. Germany’s Dirk Braun holds the world record at 9.95 seconds set in 2015.

3. Standing Block Chop

This event is most like felling a tree, as contestants have to cut sideways through a 30-centimetre thick vertical block of wood with an axe while standing. Apart from raw speed and power, precision plays a critical role in claiming victory.

Robert Chatley currently owns the Great Britain record of 18.56 seconds, which he set in 2016. Matt Cogar of the USA set a new world record of 11.03 seconds in 2018.

4. Single Buck

Athletes use a single man crosscut saw to slice through 48 centimetres of white pine. To keep the saw teeth from getting stuck in the log, competitors can ask a helper to wedge the saw into the wood. This event is a great test of endurance.

The Great Britain national record is held by Simon Bond, standing at 13.52 seconds set in 2016. 14-time world champion Jason Wynyard of New Zealand set the world record of 9.39 seconds all the way back in 2007.

5. Springboard

Arguably the most demanding discipline, this event has contestants climb up two springboards placed in a tree trunk 2.8 metres above the ground with the goal of chopping off the top that is 27 centimetres in diameter with an axe. Maintaining one’s balance adds a dynamic wrinkle to the familiar manual logging experience.

Glen Penlington is the Great Britain national record holder, setting a time of 1 minute and 3.83 seconds in 2016. Canadian Stirling Hart set the world record in 2016, completing the event in 35.67 seconds.

Rookies do not participate in this discipline.

6. Hot Saw

Closing out the competition is the wildest event, where participants wield souped-up chainsaws to slice three cookies off a 64-centimetre tree trunk. The saws are outfitted with 60 horsepower engines typically used in dirt bikes and snowmobiles, weighing in at around 27 kilograms. These bladed behemoths are breathtaking to behold in the hands of these master woodmen.

The Great Britain national record of 7.88 seconds was recently set by Welshman Elgan Pugh in 2018, while Germany’s Dirk Braun set the world record of 5.20 seconds in 2016.

Rookies do not take part in this event.

Joining the STIHL TimberSports Series

Does this get your adrenalin rising? Do you think you have what it takes to compete? The STIHL TimberSports Series is an invite-only event, and you’ll need to submit official results of your performances in regional contests to even be considered in the STIHL TimberSports GB National Championship.

Get professional coaching on three of the four rookie disciplines when you join the Taster Weekends STIHL holds every spring. The organisation can see firsthand if you are ready for the real deal.

Whether you want to actively join the competition or just spectate the sport, you’re bound to have a thrilling experience discovering how fun TimberSports can be!