In the fourth of our STIHL TIMBERSPORTS® series of articles about the six different disciplines that feature in TIMBERSPORTS® competitions, we’re talking about the Springboard. In this towering TIMBERSPORTS® event, competitors must have a head for heights if they are going to achieve the sort of times needed to win this discipline in the original extreme sport.
Once again, the aim is to cut through a vertically-mounted 27cm poplar log in the quickest time, but instead of chopping through it whilst standing on the floor, the Springboard adds an element of danger – the log is mounted on top of a pole or ‘tree’ that is 2.74 metres high!
Athletes reach the log with the use of two ‘springboards’ and once again, this discipline evolved from actual tree-felling techniques that were used by lumberjacks in the past who needed to get access to parts of the tree high off the ground.
The springboards used in today’s TIMBERSPORTS® competitions are long, flat wooden boards with a metal shoe or clip on one end of them, and each athlete will take their own boards, as well as two racing axes (so they have a spare available to them), on stage with them at the start of each event. As with all of the axe disciplines, they also have chainmail socks and shin guards under their shoes as protection against a wayward swing of their razor-sharp axe!
On the word ‘Go’, competitors must use their axe to cut a small notch or ‘pocket’ into the pole. Once they are happy with their pocket, they swing their axe into the pole, take one of the springboards and wedge it into the pocket, before using the axe handle to pull themselves on to it. Once they have got their balance, they then cut another pocket further up the pole, and wedge the second springboard into the higher pocket. The athlete pulls himself up onto the second board, before steadying himself to chop through the log mounted at the top of the pole. The clock stops once the log is completely severed.
This event is one of the hardest ones for new STIHL TIMBERSPORTS® competitors to master, and many experienced athletes can still be disqualified for not completing the discipline within the 2:30 minute time limit. However, the top TIMBERSPORTS® athletes will be aiming for times around the 1-minute mark or less.
The British Springboard record is held by Glen Penlington, who finished the discipline in 1.03:83 at the 2016 British National Championship. Five-time British Champion, Elgan Pugh, came closest to breaking this record in 2019, but was still over three seconds slower so Penlington’s record may stand for a while yet!
The World Record is even more impressive though, with Canadian competitor and all-round favourite, Stirling Hart, setting the record at the 2016 TIMBERSPORTS® World Championship in Stuttgart. Hart smashed his way through the previous time, setting a new World Record of just 35.67 seconds!
The Springboard isn’t without risks though – something which Hart knows only too well. He received his trademark TIMBERSPORTS® scar during the Springboard event, when his axe slipped out of the pole as he reached down to pick up his first board, and sliced through his cheek. He bounced back though, setting the new World record four years after the injury happened.
The British TIMBERSPORTS® Championship has seen its fair share of Springboard drama too, not least at the 2017 British Championship, held at BBC Countryfile Live. Dewi Pugh was lucky to escape injury when his second board came loose from the pocket and fell out of the tree whilst he was balancing on it. The gasp from the audience watching was audible as he hit the stage, but he valiantly got straight back up to try and complete the event. However, the time he lost from the fall meant that he couldn’t complete the discipline in the time limit, leaving him with a disqualification and zero points.
As with all STIHL TIMBERSPORTS® events, the Springboard discipline is exciting and unpredictable – which one is your favourite? Let us know in the comments and keep an eye on the blog for the latest TIMBERSPORTS® news.