LOGROLLING



Overview:

In the 19th century, lumberjacks used to corral and ride their felled trees down rivers like cowboys herding wild mustangs. The goal was to get the timber safely and quickly to a sawmill but the jacks realized that work was more fun if they ended each day with a round of king of the log. Today, that competitive spirit is alive and well in the Mid-West: there are king of the log training camps, a world of specialized equipment manufacturers and televised world championships, but the goal remains the same: to be the last standing on a floating log.

In competition logrolling, as the sport is known, two opponents stand on either end of a log, spinning it rapidly with their feet. Physical contact is not allowed, but any number of other tactics are, including kicking water into the opponent's face or suddenly stopping the log by digging into with your spiked shoes. The later, called a “slap,” is an expert level technique – you need to be able to fully stop the log or your feet, which are now sunk into the log, will pull you violently underwater and then jerk you up the other side like a dish rag in the washing machine.



The capital of logrolling and the home of the Lumberjack World Championships is in the heart of Paul Bunyan country: Hayward, Wisconsin. The Hayward Log Rolling School, is the sport's preeminent training facility and has trained many of the sports' luminaries, though current champion Mandy Erdmann hails from rival La Crosse, Wisconsin.

Erdmann started logrolling at age six and by age nine, was placing in regional competitions. At 14, she discovered the boom-run, an off-shoot of logrolling in which two contestants race back and forth across eight single-file floating logs. Now 23, Erdmann holds the world record in the event (15.57 seconds) and has won the boom-run at the ESPN Great Outdoor Games four times and the Lumberjack World Championships five times.



A fact about Erdmann: she was the only student at St. Olaf College who brought a log to school. Maybe because of a Title 9 lawsuit fear, she won permission to float her log in the school's pool where she trained for two to three hours every day. Her fellow students thought she was crazy.

“I became known as the logrolling girl on campus,” Erdmann says but notes that she likes to break people's stereotypes about the sport. “People think, 'Oh you're a logroller.' They think you're going to be this really huge woman.” She said her light frame – she is 5'7” and 123 pounds – actually gives her an advantage in the boom run, because she doesn't weigh down the logs, which can become unruly under heavier contestants.

Serious logrollers spend several hundred dollars investing in equipment – a log for practicing and a pair of “spikes,” shoes embedded with metal pegs (similar to golf spikes except longer). Western cedar logs work best, but they don't have to be designed specifically for logrolling; just go out, buy yourself any old log, dump in a adequately sized pool, and start rolling!