Uncanny axemen turn on display
By HELEN JACK firstname.lastname@example.org WOOD-CHOPPERS Jonathan Blais, from Canada, and Will Roberts and Matthew Marks, of New York State in the US, could not wait to test their mettle against the best at Brunswick Heads on the weekend.
"We started wood-chopping about three years ago while studying at university, and heard the Australians and New Zealanders were the best, so we are here to learn," Will said.
The woodchop event that began in 1961 with only 27 axemen today boasts 116 men, 12 women and 12 boys, who have travelled from across Australia, New Zealand and North America.
Matthew said the level of competition in the United States was not as high as in Australia.
"I have learnt so many things, but the most significant for me is to have patience," he said.
"Many of these people have been chopping since they were eight years old and that is why they are the best in the world.
"We are just first generation choppers where we come from and have taught ourselves by just trying to figure it out the best we can.
"We are taking videos of the best choppers and of ourselves, and basically coaching each other."
Woodchop secretary Joy Slater said the number of axemen competing was highest in 1970, with 156 choppers.
Their numbers then dwindled in the 1980s and 1990s, but picked up again as new generations picked up the axe.
"It's like a big family, helping each other and then competing against each other," she said. "And at the end of the day they will have a beer together."
Will won the underhand 300ml event and Jonathan placed third in the double-handed saw event.
Men's Champion of Champions was New Zealander Jason Wynyard, with his wife Karmyn taking out the women's title.