Is This Modern-Day Lumberjack Competition the Manliest Sport in the World?

TTo cut to the chase, yes, the Stihl Timbersports Competition is, indeed, the manliest sport in the world.

How could it not be when all six disciplines that make up Stihl Timberpsorts involve chainsaws, hot saws, axes, wood-chips and saw dust flying, massively muscled arms moving faster than your eyes can take it all in, and the deafening roars of a crowd who are there to see some of the finest lumberjacking in the world? What makes this competition even more manly is that, well, it’s made up mostly of men in their prime. This isn’t a sport for young bucks — most competitors don’t hit their stride until their mid-thirties, some into their early forties. This is decidedly for the men, not the boys.

And one of those men, Matt Cogar, has been the reigning U.S. champ for five years in a row (2012-2017). Looking more like The Mountain from Game of Thrones than a normal human, Matt Cogar is just the latest of the Cogar clan to make his name in the Timbersports world. His cousin, Arden Cogar, Jr. (who is also a trial lawyer!) is an ardent Timbersports competitor, as well as his father, Arden Cogar, Sr. (who made the Timbersports final at the age of 60 in 1994), and Matt’s father, Paul. Hailing from the forests of West Virginia, the Cogars are the unofficial First Family of Timbersports, and seeing any one of them compete is a chance to watch true experts in their field.

The 2018 Stihl Timbersports Competition will take place July 27-29 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Before you attend — or watch live — here’s everything you need to know about the six intense disciplines of the event.

Single Buck

single buck

Perhaps the most iconic of the disciplines, the single buck requires contestants to use a long saw weighing between 15 and 18 pounds to cut through a 19-inch diameter piece of white pine. Most competitors can do this in around 11-12 seconds. Our own attempts cocked in at over a minute, so trust us when we say it’s so much harder than it looks.

Standing Block Chop

standing block chop

The most traditional-looking event in the competition involves chopping through a vertically oriented 12-inch-diameter white pine log. While this event may look like a bunch of guys swinging baseball bat-style at a chunk of wood, there’s a very nuanced method to getting that wood chopped in half in the fastest time. It involves first cutting one side at an upward angle and then the other at a downward one, until the final blow completely severs the top of the block, often knocking it a dozen feet downstage. This event is hands-down one of the most extreme, high-intensity, anaerobic exercises a person could do.

Stock Saw

stock saw

Featuring the second-most powerful saws that Stihl builds, the Stihl MS660, the stock saw event requires competitors to start their saws and cut down, and then cut up in the four inches of wood allotted. It’s that simple, but this simplicity belies the event’s true difficulty — cuts can go at an angle, creating wood discs of “cookies” that aren’t the same thickness throughout, or that have thinned at one edge to the point of being incomplete. The goal is to cut two wood cookies of stable width in the fastest time. Since this discipline features equivalent machines, the contestants’ speed and skill are the determining factors in who wins this race. Most times for individual competitors are separated by less than a second.

Underhand Chop

The underhand chop is the most visually frightening of the events. Contestants plant their feet firmly on a 3-foot-long log and swing their axe from above their head directly between their feet to cut halfway through the log before turning around (without touching the ground) and chopping through the other side until the log splits in half. As Stihl says, “The underhand chop mimics how early lumberjacks would cut fallen logs to length in the woods and is usually the first chopping discipline a competitor learns.” Times for this event come in at a mere 20 seconds.

Springboard Chop

One of the most exciting (and dangerous, mostly due to falls) disciplines, the springboard chop requires the competitor to first chop with an ax a notch at around belly-button height into a nine foot poll, insert a springboard into the notch, climb up onto that springboard, and then chop another above and repeat. Once both springboards have been chopped and inserted and the competitor is standing on the top one (about six feet above the ground), he’ll chop at the final log. The event is over when the top log has been cut through and knocked to the ground. Times for the springboard chop typically clock in at just around one minute.

Hot Saw

Hot Saw
Chase McPeak/The Manual

The loudest and craziest of the disciplines, the Hot Saw ends every Timbersports competition and frequently makes or breaks the contestants due to an individual hot saw’s fickle nature. Using a modified chainsaw where the only thing remaining from the chainsaw is the chain itself, this beast of machines is more often than not hand-built using 250-350cc, two-stroke engines that began life powering a dirt bike or snow machine. The goal of this discipline is to fire up the hot saw (which doesn’t always happen immediately since these machine function on the “ragged edge” of maximum power) and make a down cut, up cut, and a final down cut in around 5 seconds. The hot saw is also the most expensive piece of equipment, with some costs coming in at $10,000.

Thanks to Duluth Trading Company, which sponsors the event and outfits all the competitors in their amazingly durable (and protective) Duluthflex Firehose Work Pants, we were able to attend the 2017 competition in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, which also took place during the city’s Germanfest. I can tell you from personal experience that there’s nothing better than drinking a massive stein of Leinenkugel’s while watching real-life lumberjacks do battle with saws that make your local tree-trimming company look like children. And doing it all in Duluth Trading’s Armachillo underwear kept me cool under the hot Midwestern Sun. Similar to the company’s Buck Naked underwear, the Armachillo line is infused with crushed jade to naturally cool your nether regions. It’s comfort meets cool in the best of ways.

Article originally published August 23, 2017. Last updated July 13, 2018, with the 2018 dates.

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