There's a fashion trend happening worldwide, and Adrian Flygt isn't too happy about it. As a competitive lumberjack for STIHL Timbersports, wearing flannel and sprouting an impressive beard are pretty much prerequisites for a life spent chopping wood. So lumbersexuals, a breed of male sporting the same get-up without the same set of skills, are kind of stealing his thunder.
"Hipsters went from wearing pressed, collared shirts and trousers to wearing flannel shirts," the Fort Collins, Colorado, local growls into the phone with a laugh. "It makes me chuckle. The reason I wear flannel and grow a beard? It's because I don't have style. I just want to feel warm and comfy when I'm out chopping wood. It's about authenticity—it's sort of like, ‘this is what I do, this is how I choose to live.’"
And Flygt, 33, is about as Paul Bunyan-esque as it gets. He's a bear of a man, measuring in at 6 feet, 4 inches and 260 pounds, all bulging muscles and feral beard. So when he steps into the ring during a STIHL Timbersports contest, he's just as intimidating as the sport he competes in: competitive lumberjacking.
Hailed as the "original extreme sport," Timbersports is celebrating its 30th year, but it's a sport that's been around for as long as men have been felling trees.
"There are loggers, who are people who make a living cutting and harvesting timber, while a 'lumberjack' is limited to the people who compete in the professional Timbersports series," Flygt clarifies.
Competitive lumberjacks like Flygt compete in six prescribed disciplines, all of which originated with loggers who started challenging each other to games of strength and speed in the woods. Flygt says he tries to compete in nine to 12 contests across the country every year, balancing an intense training schedule with his job as a high school physics teacher.
"I train four days a week for 90 to 120 minutes," he says. "My workouts consist of Olympic lifting, stone loading (picking up Atlas stones), and skipping rope."
Timbersports competitors often wield 60-pound chainsaws with enough force and speed to cut through a massive log in just six seconds. Intimidating? A resounding "yes"—but Flygt goodheartedly says that anyone is welcome to try their hand at lumberjacking. Yep, even lumbersexuals.
"We're a big, burly family," he says. "We look terrifying and the competition is intense, but everyone is happy and kind if you're interested and excited about it. It's not exactly a mainstream sport, so we need dedicated competitors to keep it going."
Here, Flygt schools us in the six skills a lumbersexual would need to learn to be the real deal—and earn that beard and flannel.
The Springboard Chop
Based on the need for old-time loggers to have a cutting platform high above root systems on old-growth trees, contestants face a 9-foot tall poplar pole and make a hole that they insert a wooden board into with a metal clip. Climbing onto that board, they make another hole above them, insert another board, and leap up onto it. Now six or seven feet in the air, they must chop a wood block in half with an axe. Flygt says it's the most physically demanding event—lumberjacks go all out with manual power for 45 seconds.
The Standing Block Chop
"You have a wood block mounted vertically on a stand in front of you," says Flygt. "You have to mimic felling a tree, matching your chops on the front side and the backside until the tree tips over." Competitors race each other to make it through 12 to 14 inches of white pine.
The Hot Saw
"Instead of using a factory saw, we use chainsaws built for speed in the Hot Saw," explains Flygt. "Most people have saws with engines based on a dirt bike or snowmobile engine, so rather having 80-90ccs like a regular work saw, ours have 250-440ccs." Using the 50- to 60-pound saws, the lumberjacks must make three cuts in a massive log within the 6- to 7-second range.
The Single Buck
Lumberjacks use a specially tuned racing crosscut saw to cut through a 19-inch piece of white pine. This event is all about manpower and forcing the saw back and forth quickly through the wood—the first man to the bottom of the log wins. So how fast is fast? Try 12 to 14 seconds per log.
The Stock Saw
A true test of operator ability, the Stock Saw tests lumberjacks' reflexes to the max. Starting with both hands on the log in front of them, competitors must reach down, grab their idling chainsaws, and then cut through the log. "It's the NASCAR of Timbersports," says Flygt.
The Underhand Chop
A log is mounted horizontally in a stand, and a lumberjack must chop halfway through the front, then halfway through the back. "This is definitely the most impressive event," says Flygt. "You're sending the weight of the axe straight between your feet." As if that weren't scary enough, each axe is sharpened into a "6- or 7-pound razor blade." Don't worry—as long as your weight is where it's supposed to be, all of that power will get sent straight through the log instead of your toe (gulp).
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