Absurd Athletics

The Lumberjack World Championship is held every year right here in Wisconsin, and it’s exactly what it sounds like

Nick Porisch

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A lumberjack competes in one of the championship’s sawing events.

Wisconsin is known for many things, including indie-folk sensations, the alleged hometown of the hamburger and a bizarre amount of serial killers per capita. 

However, there is another thing that Wisconsinites can use to bolster their constantly struggling reputation: the Lumberjack World Championship.

That’s right, for this week’s edition of Absurd Athletics we are sticking close to home and looking at this bizarre event held every year a mere hour and a half drive from Eau Claire.

Held in Hayward, Wis. every July, this three day lumberjack extravaganza is exactly what it sounds like. Lumberjack all-stars compete in various timber-themed events, including log rolling, ax throwing and boom running.

Boom running may be the most obscure athletic event this column ever covers, as a Google search supplies nothing but a couple videos from the Lumberjack World Championship itself, articles on the 1970s jogging boom and a web page for a beer made by a local brewery in Verona, Wis.

However, if you click on the video link or do a quick YouTube search, you’ll see that boom running can and should be the next massively popular sport in the United States. In the event, a string of logs are linked together across a body of water, and competitors must sprint from one side to another as the logs spin wildly out of control.

Contestants come from as far away as Florida and Washington to compete in these daring and bizarre events. In 2021, the all-around champions were from Diana, W.Va and Spokane, Wash., respectively.

The championship is split up into specific categories: relay and axe throw, sawing events, chopping events, climbing events, log rolling and boom running and an amateur log rolling category for those under the age of 17. The all-around champion is determined through an aggregation of their scores in each event.

Side note: if an athletic tournament has a category labeled “chopping events,” I’m already bought in.

According to the championship’s website, log rolling is the most popular competition of the event, even being split into “pro” and “semi-pro” categories. 

It’s endlessly fascinating that, no matter how obscure a sport may be, there are always individuals who are able to turn it into a professional living. It makes you wonder if they took a career placement test in high school and were told being a pro log roller was the right path for them, or if it was something they dreamed of ever since they were kids.

Sometimes it can be inspirational to see someone take an incredibly niche passion, like log rolling, and make it a professional reality. Likely no one told them to pursue a career in the field of log rolling. The people out there on the water, rolling their hearts out, are there because they love the sport of logrolling, and they’ve made their passion their life.

Many college students I know attest to the feeling that they are being shuffled towards a safe, unexciting job with almost no input from their own passions or dreams. To them, I say look at the professional log rollers. Go out there and pursue your dream, no matter how bizarre or unlucrative it may seem.

Tickets to the 2022 Lumberjack World Championship are available on their website, so if this event has grabbed your attention feel free to check it out this Summer. I can definitely tell you I’ll be there.

Porisch can be reached at [email protected].