Humans like to compete. From an early age, we figure out a way to make anything into a competition.
As kids, we compete to see who can run the fastest or throw the farthest or swing the highest.
As adults, we make competitions out of chugging beers, eating hot dogs and you name it.
Well back in the day, lumberjacks would float logs down the river from the forests to the sawmills.
The men would run back and forth across the logs to guide them and make sure they didn’t jam.
The logs would sometimes spin under their feet and they realized they could make a competition out of it.
Over 100 years later, the sport is still popular and celebrated every year at the World Championship.
For me, it is the highlight of the lumberjack show at the Minnesota State Fair every summer.
A local Minnesota-based company called Key Logrolling invented a 65-pound synthetic log that you fill with water at your destination.
It’s easy to transport and you can put trainers on it to help control the speed of how fast it spins in the water. It is great to use as a teaching tool and is making the sports much more accessible to the general public.
This past weekend, my friend Sara and I took a 2-hour logrolling class with Key Logrolling on Lake Nokomis in Minneapolis.
Among the large summer crowd of kids and adults swimming, paddle boarding, canoeing and kayaking, we caught everyone’s attention as we learned how to get up on the log and tried not to fall off immediately.
Thanks to the patient coaching of our instructor Tyler, we were each allowed plenty of time to take turns stepping onto the log and trying to stay up. We practiced over and over for a solid 30-40 minutes.
When we took a break, we realized how exhausting it was as a sport, especially for the novice.
The physical exertion comes from keeping somewhat in a squat position with arms raised to help maintain balance and then constantly moving your feet as quick as possible.
If you stop moving, you fall in. If you take too big of a step, you fall in. And if you look at your feet, you fall in.
There’s a lot to think about and this all contributes to the sport also being mentally exhausting.
In the second-half of the lesson, Sara and I enthusiastically competed against each other on the log.
There are two types of logrolling contests:
- Bucking matches, which is when two roller are facing opposite directions; and
- Running matches, which is when two rollers are facing the same direction, or looking over opposite directions when rolling.
Both require you to keep your eyes focused on the feet of your competitors. You have to constantly watch what they are doing so you can respond appropriately, either with a front step or a back step. The matches for us were very short to say the least.
One of the real challenges for us as amateurs was just getting set on the log before the match even begins.
We had to both step up and balance and start moving our feet before Tyler would give us the go ahead. Inevitably, one of us would fall off and so it would be a false start and no points awarded.
Otherwise, when we did get our act together, we played to best of 5. Sara won the majority as she displayed even in those two short hours an instant knack and love for the sport.
If you want to be clever, you can try and splash water into your opponent’s eyes with your foot to temporarily blind and distract them.
Another option is to bob the log where you rock the log back and forth in the water in an attempt to put your opponents end of the log under the water, which it makes it difficult for them to move their feet.
I like to be clever and tried to splash Sara and ended up slipping and landing with the log between my legs. Luckily, I didn’t hit hard enough to do any lasting damage and felt like just desserts from playing dirty, even if the rules allow it.
Overall, our lesson in logrolling was awesome and it is a sport I am eager to try again. It requires great dexterity, balance and focus.
Most importantly, it’s a less in humility but also in the importance of having grit because it demands that if you want to get better you have to keep getting back up on that log over no matter how many times you fall.