STIHL Timbersports World Championship 2013

“Both Cuts are Good”

A tremendous show in Porsche Arena in Stuttgart.

A tremendous show in Porsche Arena in Stuttgart.

Want to meet hunky men? No need to go into a fitness parlour to come across specimens of this much admired species. The answer is STIHL Timbersports. The best bet is to try and attend one of the STIHL Timbersports Championships as highlight of the Stihl Timbersports Series.

We were lucky because this year’s World Championship took part in Porsche Arena in Stuttgart (as announced in our post from 23rd September: http://globaliter.de/stihlists-at-work/), i.e. in the vicinity. Our decision to attend was accompanied by the feeling: “Okay, might be quite interesting. Let’s stay for a bit.” Little did we know what was awaiting us. The atmosphere was unbelievably good and highly infectious. Hot music in a fully packed Arena with fans in high spirits from all over the world. The seats in Porsche Arena were completely sold out. No hooliganism. On the contrary, pure joy ruling an event that requires strength, craftsmanship, stamina and equilibrium. The participants do not only love dealing with wood, they are athletes and avid sports lumberjacks. It was this combination of athletic prowess and a superb atmosphere that made us join into cheering and stay till the very end. In a word: We experienced a wholly new world, and it was worth every minute.

Man of migh: Jason Wynyard from New Zealand, last year's World Champion.

Man of migh: Jason Wynyard from New Zealand, last year’s World Champion.

The Stihl Timbersports Series is the original extreme sport which first took place towards the end of the 19th century. Out of the improvised beginnings about a dozen sporting events developed, including some that simulate logging and cutting a tree. In the present Stihl Timbersports World Championship there are the following six disciplines: Standing Block Chop, Underhand Chop, Springboard, Single Buck, STIHL Stock Saw and Hot Saw.

Competition in days of yore: Lumberjack displaying the Underhand Chop in Australia.

Competition in days of yore: Lumberjack demonstrating the Underhand Chop.

All disciplines require dexterity in handling the respective tool and the material wood, strength, endurance and precision. At present there are about 500 athletes in Europe and almost 2,000 worldwide competing in the Stihl Timbersports series. Many of the European athletes exercise a profession dealing with wood and machinery, but there are also scientists, students, lawyers, policemen and craftsmen to be found. In a word: A refreshingly different type of sport and a hundred per cent in line with the world of Stihl and Timbersports.

USA Head Judge Rich Hallett decided on whether the cuts were good. And they all were.

Master of Ceremonies: USA Head Judge Rich Hallett decided on whether the cuts were good. And they all were.

The competitors vie with each others in pairs, trying to reach the best time. Provided everything went according to the rules, the referee calls out to the audience: “Both cuts are good”, which is accompanied by loud cheering and the waving of flags of the countries of the contestants.

Where Wood is Sawed …

Robert Ebner during the German Championship in July 2013. The German could easily have finished 2nd in the World Championship, but showing nerves made him lose precious time.

Robert Ebner during the German Championship in July 2013. The German could easily have finished 2nd in the World Championship, but showing nerves made him lose precious time.

Where wood is chopped, splinters must fall. And where wood is sawed, sparks must fly. As to the “Standing Block Chop” this is where huge pieces of wood fall. Mimicking the felling of a tree, the competitors race to chop through a vertical white pine having a diameter of 30 centimetres (12 inches). The competitor must must chop from both sides of the log. The time ends when the block is severed.

Precision is the key to success in this discipline. Stamina is the primary challenge because this is one of the most physically exhausting exercises. Jason Wynyard set the world record for the standing block chop at 12.11 seconds in 2003.

The German Ebner in last year's World Championship

The German Ebner in last year’s World Championship

The “Underhand Chop”, too, requires a large and therefore heavy axe. But even more than for the Standing Block Chop a sense of equilibrium and most of all accuracy is needed as the contestand stands on a pine log with his feet apart. At any rate this discipline is not to be recommended to beginners, at least if they want to keep there feet or legs unharmed. Even the pros wear a kind of chain mail in the form of a protective sock.

Size plus weight of the sports utensils and the hazardous acrobatics that the athletes have to perform with them make it hardly surprising that this is a sport in which women are not seen. So far, this has been a man’s world – making it all the more attractive for women, be it as a kind of cheerleaders, spurring their heroes on in the arena of prowess and manhood, be it as sheer admirers of men, sweat and competition. The only female attractions have so far been a model trying some of the disciplines under the roaring cheers of male spectators and girls dancing in between the sports acts. These athletes are the gladiators of modern times. So, yes, this is a man’s world, this is a man’s world, but it wouldn’t be nothing, nothing without a woman or a girl:

What really took our breath away was the “Springboard” act. This  discipline based on the need for old-time loggers to establish a cutting platform above the massive root bases of old growth trees. The competitor uses an axe to chop pockets into a 9-foot poplar pole and then place 6-inch wide springboard platforms into the pockets. However, to watch this almost makes one’s heart stand still. The wood is really strong, the cuts do not appear to

Acrobatics and hard work in one: Springboard Chop.

Acrobatics and hard work in one: Springboard Chop up in the air.

go deep, and yet the competitors ram the sprinboard into the tree trunk. And these boards up high sway dangerously up and down, so one also has to be free from giddiness and counterbalance the the moving board at the same time as mightily swinging the axe. And most amazing of all: The athletes perform this athletic act in something like 32 to 36 seconds! A most impressive discipline steeped in tradition.

These Cookies are not for Eating …

Then there is the “Single Buck” discipline. With a single man cross-cut saw of the astounding length of about two metres the competitor has to saw a complete “cookie”.

Last year's Word Champion from New Zealand makes splinters fall in abundance with his single buck.

Last year’s Word Champion from New Zealand makes splinters fall in abundance with his single buck.

Now, as you will imagine, this is not a chocolate biscuit, but a circular piece of evenly sawed-off wood. The athlete makes one cut through 46 centimetres (19 inches) within about ten seconds. In fact, Jason Wynyard set the world record for the single buck at 9.39 seconds in 2007. For a successful cut the athlete needs both rhythm and vigour. And not only that: A key strategy is to keep the saw as level as possible so that it creates an even cut and the teeth do not catch in the wood. Easier said than done, as the long saw is a

The new extremely powerful 5.4kW-professional Stihl MS 661 C-M.

The new extremely powerful 5.4kW-professional Stihl MS 661 C-M.

rather wobbly tool. The single buck is referred to as the “misery whip” because of the physical toll a body endures while using it.

Not one but two cookies have to be cut in the “STIHL Stock Saw” discipline. This year saw the introduction of the new STIHL MS 661 C-M to this discipline. The stock saw discipline is a true test of operator ability. At the shot of the referee’s gun, the sawyer makes two cuts through 40 centimetres (16 inches) of a wood block. With only ten centimetres (four inches) of wood to work with, precision is key. If a competitor saws outside of that or fails to saw a complete cookie, he will be disqualified. The present world record for two cookies is 9.45 seconds.

Before we turn to the spectacular highlight of the World Championship, here is a glimpse of the atmosphere in Porsche Arena:

As mentioned above, we had little notion of what was awaiting us. And what is coming next is not only really hot, but also, to quote a pro: “A lot harder than it looks.”

World Record in Speed

230 km/h in a split second, namely in 0.3 seconds. This is not a new world record by Formula One Star Sebastian Vettel who just one day later became Word Champion for the fourth time in sequence in India, three races before the end of the F1 season 2013. Not even a Formula 1 racing car can reach nearly such a momentum. It is in fact the modified

Incredible speed: Hot saw with 62 to 68 PS.

Incredible speed: Hot saw with 62 to 68 PS.

Hot saw: It weighs almost 30 kilogram, can reach up to 270 km/h within 0.5 to 0.7 seconds, has 62 to 80 horsepower (!), which is more horsepower than in small cars, and asks for an investment of at least 5,000 Euro. But just as in Formula 1 the teams develop their individual hot saws within a given framework. And just as in Formula 1 the developing process is top secrets. The pros make sure that the competitors cannot see how they modified the chainsaw which is delivered to them from the STIHL works in Switzerland where they are manufactured.

Listen to a pro who describes just how difficult it is to handle a hot saw:

Before each act, the judge announces: “Time is ready; contestants are ready; 60 seconds to warm up your saws”. Only in the hot saw acts do contestants get 60 seconds, for “normal” saws, it is 15 seconds.

Anyway, in the hot saw discipline, almost everything is different: The competitor uses a customized chain saw with a modified engine, usually taken from a personal watercraft or snowmobile. If the competitor fails to start his engine to make the three cuts immediately, he has more or less had it. This is what unfortunately happened to the German Robert Ebner, a hot aspirant to second place who ultimately lost a place on the podium by becoming fourth.

For a Good Cause

More than one hundred international athletes combatted in the 9th STIHL TIMBERSPORTS World Championship with its motto “Kiss my Axe”, spurred on by nearly 10,000 fans and international spectators. Amazing logistics is needed for this event. In the

Children from the Diakonie Stetten experiencing wood.

Children from the Diakonie Stetten experiencing wood.

end, the Australian Brad de Losa was the new World Champion. Apart from having earned a lot of feathers in his cap he was awarded a wood sculpture as trophy, which took its artist more than 500 hours to complete. It was presented to the winner by Dr. Nikolas Stihl, chairman of the STIHL advisory and supervisory boards and grandson to the founder of the company. The event also served a good cause, because a total of 18 tons of wood used during the Championship were ultimately donated to the Diakonie Stetten, a clerical institution near the STIHL headquarters in Waiblingen. With its long tradition in the aid to mentally handicapped people and the large number of opportunities it offers, Diakonie Stetten is well known in the surrounding area.

Summary /Zusammenfassung

Wahnsinns Stimmung in der Porsche Arena in Stuttgart, die unweit des Hauptsitzes des Weltunternehmens Stihl liegt. Die STIHL Timbersports Weltmeisterschaft findet seit dem Jahr 2007 jährlich statt. Natürlich ist es eine großartige Marketingaktion für das Unternehmen STIHL. Doch mehr als das ist es eine hochkarätige Sportveranstaltung, die ihren Athleten Kraft, Disziplin, Ausdauer und Strategie abverlangt. Weltmarktführer Stihl mit seinen rund 44.000 Vertragshändlern führt die Stihl Timbersports Series auf der ganzen Welt durch.

Susanne Roeder

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