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Athletes sharpen axes, chainsaws for extreme sport series coming to Wasaga (2 photos)

'I was four years old when I got my first axe; it is similar to strapping a pair of hockey skates on as a child, just a little more dangerous,' says competitor Stirling Hart

If a tree falls on the stage in the middle of a busy, sandy beach, does it make a sound?

The answer is yes, and it’s the sound of victory because that’s the name of the game this July when the Stihl Timbersports Series comes to Wasaga Beach.

Canada’s top 40 athletes will be competing in the series which takes place July 19-22 at the same time as the annual Wasaga Beach Bike Rally.

One of the athletes sharpening his axe for the series is Stirling Hart of Vancouver, B.C., who is a two-time Canadian Champion and world championship silver medalist.

“I started in the sport at the age of four, both my father and my grandfather competed so I grew up with the sport,” said Hart. “I was four years old when I got my first axe; it is similar to strapping a pair of hockey skates on as a child, just a little more dangerous.”

Hart, 28, competed several times a day through the summers for 13 years, and was involved in managing a Stihl Timbersports Series. He trains regularly at the gym to stay in peak physical condition, and takes the winters off from chopping and sawing. He resumes his logger training in March every year.

“The top question that people always want to know is, ‘How did I get started in something like that?’” said Hart. “If they have seen me on television competing, they always comment they thought I would be bigger,” he laughs. Hart is 6 feet tall and weighs 175 pounds.

He has recently started his own company that specializes in thinning out trees in forests around homes to mitigate forest fires.

The July event will be the Stihl Timbersports Canadian Championship, and will serve as a qualifier for the world championships.

Stihl Timbersports is an elite logger sport series which features six different logger disciplines that are fashioned after tasks required of the original loggers.

The disciplines are as follows:

  • Springboard Chop: The athlete must cut two notches in a log, stick a board into each notch and use those boards to climb up high enough to chop the top off the log (about 3 metres above the ground). The athlete requires balance and skill as they are swinging an axe while balancing on an unstable plank.
  • Underhand Chop: This simulates cutting up a felled tree. Athletes must cut through a 32 cm thick trunk with their axe, while standing on top of it.
  • Stihl Stock Saw: Athletes use a chainsaw to cut two cookies of a certain thickness, one with a down cut and one with an up cut.
  • Standing Block Chop: This simulates felling a tree with an axe. The athlete must chop through the secured block of wood (30 cm diameter) from both sides.
  • Single Buck: This is one cut through 19 inches of white pine using a single-man cross-cut saw.
  • Hot Saw: The competitor must cut three cookies from a wood block using a very powerful chainsaw – up to 62 horsepower and a chain speed of 240 km/h.

Hart’s favourite event is the standing block.

“I have trained really hard on it the last couple of years and that hard work has put me near the top of the world in that event,” he said. “It’s really rewarding to see your hard work pay off."

Though he favours the standing block, it was the springboard chop that provided him with the most memorable moment in his career.

Hart set the world record in the springboard event two years ago in Stuttgart, Germany with a time of 35.67 seconds. Watch the video of his world record performance here.

“It’s one of the most difficult events to learn and become accomplished at, so to be the best in the world at it, it’s a great feeling,” he said.

The Wasaga Beach event features the 16 best Stihl Timbersports Canadian athletes competing in four disciplines in a back-to-back relay format without taking a break. Through an elimination bracket format, two athletes will compete head-to-head with the winner moving on to the next round.

Athletes begin with a chainsaw cut, and then, move on to the underhand chop. After the chop is the single buck and finally, the competition ends with one more chop: the standing block.

It features three divisions including pro men, pro women and rookie. 

Last year, Stirling Hart took the pro men's title in Charlottetown, PEI. This year he returns to defend his title and is eager for another victory.

“I wish more people knew how exciting the sport is to watch live,” said Hart. “There is so much action packed into those 30 second events, it’s really great to watch.”

The schedule is as follows. Find out more about the Stihl Timbersports Series here.

Thursday, July 19
4 p.m.: Men’s Pro Qualifier 1

Friday, July 20
1 p.m.: Rookie Canadian Championship
5 p.m.: Men’s Pro Qualifier 2

Saturday, July 21
1 p.m.: Pro Women Canadian Championship
5 p.m.: Pro Men Canadian Championship

Canadian Trophy:

Sunday, July 22
10 a.m.: Qualification Round
1 p.m.: Main Draw

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Erika Engel

About the Author: Erika Engel

Erika regularly covers all things news in Collingwood as a reporter and editor. She has 13 years of experience as a local journalist
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