CO-EDS WITH CHAINSAWS: The Men And Women Of Competitive Collegiate Lumberjacking

A world in which college students are encouraged to play with saws, axes, and tobacco products.

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Stihl Timbersports

Chainsaw competitions might not be a staple on every campus — yet — but in some places, collegiate lumberjacking has become just as fashionable as texting, going on spring break, and listening to the music sounds of Miley Biber.

Stihl Timbersports

The Stihl company, which makes powerful outdoorsy equipment, has sponsored a professional "Timbersports" league since 1985. Stihl launched a college competition in 2003 — there are regionals around the country at schools like the University of Montana and Michigan State, and a national final in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee. Here's national champion Ben Hansen of the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point finishing off a round in the "underhand chop."

Stihl Timbersports

One of Hansen's main rivals for the title this year was Northern Arizona's David Gouivea. "This guy lives off the grid," an event announcer noted. (The Stihl competitions are taped for airing on ESPN networks and the Outdoor Channel.) "He eats squirrels." Gouivea confirmed that he helps manage a forest property and sometimes stays there in an unwired trailer with his dog. Doesn't sound so bad, really.

Stihl Timbersports

National competition is open to anyone but tends to be male-dominated. The Stihl Northeast regional, however — held this year at Finger Lakes Community College in upstate New York — has since 2010 attracted enough interest to have both men's and women's competitions. This year's women's champ was Jennifer Michaud of Maine's Unity College.

Stihl Timbersports

The atmosphere was rowdier at a tobacco-spitting contest held concurrently to the Stihl qualifier at Michigan State. (Slightly confusing detail: the Stihl contests are held alongside intercollegiate "Foresters' Conclave" competitions. In this case Stihl's cameras happened to catch some Conclave-sponsored spitting — it wasn't organized by the company.) One participant, Shelby Worel, told the taping crew: "I'm excited to try something new and hopefully not throw up."

Everyone had a good time developing new and potentially addictive/cancerous habits. Donia Moustafa of the University of Illinois, below, put it best. "I have a little bit of a head buzz," Moustafa told the taping crew. "But it's a good head buzz."

Stihl Timbersports

Qualifying for next year's Stihl competitions begins in the spring. In the meantime, before you go to sleep, always make sure to check under your bed for Ben Hansen.

CORRECTION: The locations of Stihl regionals change each year; the tobacco-spitting contest was concurrent to the Stihl event, not a part of it. An earlier version of this article suggested otherwise. (8/21/13)

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