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20th of October 2018


B.C. lumberjacks hope to chop their way to gold at the Timbersports World Championships in England

Mitch Hewitt and Stirling Hart are part of Team Canada and are off to England next month.

Mitch Hewitt, 40, of Scotch Creek, B.C., is a five-time Canadian champion in logger sports. Next month he will compete at the Stihl Timbersorts World Championships in Liverpool. Photo credit: Stihl Timbersports. Stihl Timbersports / PNG

For Scotch Creek resident and five-time Canadian logger champion Mitch Hewitt, Timbersports is more than just a hobby.

It’s a family tradition that has been passed down through four generations. Even his young son is deft with an axe.

His Vancouver teammate Stirling Hart is also a two-time Canadian champion with a family lineage in the sport.

“Growing up with a passion for the sport really helps,” Hart said Saturday. “I think my dad probably had an axe in my hand at the age of four.”

Hewitt, 40, and Hart, 29, are part of Team Canada and are off to England next month to try and chop and saw their way to a gold medal in the Stihl Timbersports World Championships.

Hewitt’s passion for what he calls the simple and joyous act of chopping wood with an axe began at age 10 in his home country of Australia, where his father, brother and granddad also competed in logger sports.

“Some people like to hit a golf ball, and when it’s a great shot it feels really good. It’s the same with chopping wood. When you have a sharp axe it’s a good feeling. It’s hard to explain,” he said.

Hewitt, who prefers the axe cutting events (“I’m a traditionalist”) to the chainsaw events, said it looks like his passion has been passed down yet again. His 12-year-old son is showing promise with an axe, and has already competed in a kids’ division. His daughter is doing a bit of log rolling.

He moved to Canada in 2012 after he married a Canadian woman, who also comes from a logger sports family.

“It does seem like it is passed from one generation to the next. It can be a tough sport for an outsider to get involved in.”

Mitch Hewitt, 40, of Scotch Creek, B.C., is a five-time Canadian champion in Timbersports. Next month he will compete at the Stihl Timbersorts World Championships in Liverpool. (Photo credit: Stihl Timbersports)And B.C. it seems breeds some of the best lumberjacks. One-third of the Top 20 Timbersports athletes are from this province, and half of those are in the Top 10.

Hart, ranked No. 2 in Canada, owns a forestry company with a colleague in Whistler. Both his dad and his grandfather also worked in B.C.’s booming logging industry. He began competing in 2009 and says his passion for the sport never dies.

“It’s been cool to watch it grow from a niche sport to something really more mainstream,” he said.

In May, he claimed victory at the Stihl Timbersports Champions Trophy in Marseille, defeating Jason Wynyard of New Zealand.

He said while strength is important, it’s skill that helps him win. He practises with the axe two or three times a week, and works out regularly in the gym.

“We always say a small guy with good technique can beat a big guy with bad technique, but nobody can beat a strong guy with good technique.”

Stirling Hart, a multiple Canadian champion for Timbersports, which pits athletes against each other in lumberjack skills, competes. He is heading to England as part of Team Canada in October. Photo: Stihl Timbersports. Stihl Timbersports handout / PNG

Logger sports, which grew out of contests in the bush between loggers, has roots in Australia and New Zealand, but is also popular in Canada and the United States.

The competition includes six different tests, three involving an axe, two with a chainsaw, and one with a crosscut saw. The events are completed back to back, with the winner of each competition advancing to the next round.

The standing block chop, for example, is felling a vertical 30-centimetre tree with an axe. It is done in about 20 seconds, while the underhand chop, cutting up a 32-centimetre horizontal log with an axe, has been done in under 20 seconds.

Then there are the chainsaw competitions, where the competitors slice through wood discs called “cookies.”

Hewitt and Hart are feeling really good about their chances of winning gold next month.

“Our team is made up of champions,” said Hart, adding with a lighthearted laugh, “We almost have too many talented people. It’s a good problem to have.”

Team Canada is comprised of Hart, Hewitt, 2015 Canadian champion Marcel Dupuis and 2016 World rookie champion Ben Cumberland, both from New Brunswick, and Nova Scotia’s George Williams, the 2016 Canadian rookie champion, and Connor Morse, the 2018 Canadian rookie champion.

Hart said they are tired of bringing home silver in the world championships so this time they are aiming for gold.

The Stihl Timbersports World Championships take place in Liverpool on Oct. 19 and 20.

With files from Susan Lazaruk

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