FORT WAYNE – The man has an ax to grind, among other limb-threatening implements. So how come Dave Weatherhead sounds so darn cheerful about everything?
It’s a unique sport, he explains, and even though you’re 500 or so miles from Weatherhead’s home base in Wisconsin, you can tell that comment comes equipped with a smile.
The sport, Weatherhead goes on, is a handful of woodland disciplines that fall under the heading timber sports, and they’ve been around for a spell.
The Lumberjack World Championships – which involves various forms of sawing and chopping of various sizes of logs, plus log-rolling – have been happening every year for the last 52 in Hayward, Wis. And if you’re of a certain age you’ve likely seen the event on ABC’s Wide World of Sports. Then there’s the Stihl Timbersports Series, which involves six chopping and sawing disciplines, including precision cutting with a chainsaw. And then there’s the Stihl Timberworks Lumberjack Show, a 28-year-old tour that comes for the first time to the fourth annual Outdoor Sports, Lake and Cabin Show at Memorial Coliseum starting Friday and running through next Sunday.
Performance times are 2, 5 and 7:30 p.m. Friday; 11:30 a.m., 4 and 6 p.m. Saturday; and noon and 2:30 p.m. Jan. 27. And, yes, Weatherhead, 46, who bought the touring division of the company five years ago, will be one of the performers, as befits a man who’s been involved in timber sports since he was a child.
I got involved through 4-H, competing in sawing competitions, he says. I’ve always been kind of interested in history, and my uncles and their families worked in the woods. Many times it’s kind of handed down like that.
Then we had a timber sports team in college (in Nova Scotia), Weatherhead says. A lot of guys get involved that way. There’s quite a few universities that, if they have a forestry program, will field a timber sports or woodsman team. It’s especially strong in the Northeast.
Fifteen years ago, Weatherhead moved to Wisconsin to compete in the world championships in the Ironjack Relay event. He also coached timber sports in college for a bit – and, yes, it is a coachable discipline.
Probably the rhythm, the technique, is the hardest thing to learn, Weatherhead says. When I coached the college team, that’s the thing that surprised a lot of people – it’s not necessarily brute strength that wins. Technique is huge, and it’s probably the most important thing. It really requires an incredible amount of practice and discipline.
In Fort Wayne, the Timberworks Show – which itself has been featured on Wide World of Sports, ESPN’s Jeep Trails, Discovery’s The Travelers, MTV’s The Real World and Road Rules, Family Channel and Outdoor Life Network – will consist of ax throwing, chopping, log rolling, cross-cut sawing, hot (chainsaw) sawing and chainsaw carving, which were all used in the logging camps of North America.
Along with Weatherhead, world championship competitor Adam Lasalle will be on hand, as will emcee Samantha Hadley, who’s ranked fourth in the world in log rolling.
Hopefully we can get Sam out there to show what she can do, Weatherhead says.
We should have some great competitions, he says. It’s always great when Adam and I get together.
With or without an ax to grind.