words: Tim Struby

photography: Harris Mizrahi


Every July, men and women come to a small town in the Chequamegon National Forest toting their handsaws, axes, chainsaws, and climbing spurs. They haven’t come in hopes of logging the plentiful white pine; they’re here in search of glory at the lumberjack world championships. What began in 1960 as a way to acknowledge the rich history of the logging industry has become an annual event that attracts tens of thousands. Over three days, 100 “Jack and Jills” compete in 21 events such as logrolling, axe throwing, the 90-foot climb, and hot saw.

The LWC is about family, and traditions passed down through the years. Names like Hoeschler, Duffy, Scheer, Cogar. Competitors like Jason Lentz, who hails from Diana, West Virginia, can trace his lumberjacking lineage through 11 generations. His father, Mel, and grandfather Mervin are both past champions, many times over.

Timbersports were born of the workplace. Legend has it that the first competition took place in Tasmania in 1870, as a bet between two loggers as to who could fastest fell a tree. In the US, lumberjack events date to the 1880s, yet it wasn’t until 1910 that loggers held organized competitions for the public.

Logrolling is a test of balance, coordination, agility, and strategy. Experience also helps. Many of the best rollers were atop a log before they could ride
 a bike. Specially caulked birling shoes help competitors spin, stop, and start on a length of Western red cedar. Last one standing wins. Never take your eyes off your opponent’s feet.

Some female competitors— referred to as Lumberjills— are members of Axe Women, an all-women timbersports group. Founded six years ago, they chop, cut, and saw their way through competitions and exhibitions around the country.