Log rolling: Running on the water
Log rolling classesWhen: 4-4:45 p.m. FridaysWhere: Avon Recreation CenterInformation: The cost is $35 for five sessions. Children are encouraged to come. Just show up at the pool, or call 748-4060 to reserve a spot.AVON – Any professional log roller will tell you that the only thing you need to get involved in their sport is a log. That’s right, just one piece of equipment – 12 feet long and weighing around 400 pounds. Oh, and you might need some water … enough to float a 400-pound, 12-foot log.
As one might expect, log rolling, like any fallen abundance of large cedar trees, is not readily available in the Vail Valley. But professional log roller Lizzie Hoeschler is trying to change all that.Haling from northern Wisconsin, home of the World Lumberjack Championships, log rolling is second nature to Hoeschler. “It’s in the family. I’ve been doing it my whole life,” said Hoeschler, 22, who is teaching log rolling in Avon for the next few weeks. “To me, it’s like riding a bike. I don’t need to try to balance.”Balance appears to be an integral part of the sport, wherein two competitors stand on the same log and try to get the other to fall off without touching them or making any body contact. The key part of the sport, Hoeschler says, is fast feet.”Foot speed is the most important thing, plus core strength and lower-body awareness,” she said. “It’s a lot of concentration and knowing where your feet are at all times. It’s really like running in place.”Running in place becomes a bit more challenging when the “place” is a free floating log. A large splash awaits whoever’s feet aren’t in constant motion.”It rolls really fast, so you’re basically sprinting both forward and backward,” Hoeschler said. “If you take one wrong step, you’re going to be in the water. If you’re even a split second off, you’ll get behind the log.”
A purpose in historyLog rolling is largely a North American sport. According US Logrolling, the activity has a functional origin dating back to the 1800s, when lumberjacks had to steer logs downriver, dislodging them from one another and moving them without falling into the freezing water. The activity became competitive and log rolling was born. Six years ago, ESPN latched onto it, making it a featured sport in the Great Outdoor Games, in which Hoeschler and her older and younger sisters regularly participate. Hoeschler’s aunts, uncles and 15-year-old brother are also log rollers and her mother, who just retired from the sport a few years ago after reaching her mid-40s, recently launched an International Log Rolling Foundation, which aims to introduce the sport to towns and cities across the country and across the globe.The Hoeschlers already put down the framework of a log-rolling program in Steamboat Springs and Summit County, and Lizzie is traveling to France this summer to provide instruction for a fledgling program.”The Great Outdoor Games have helped the sport a lot,” Hoeschler said. “People are beginning to see that it’s not such a redneck sport.”Hoeschler said that those who know anything about the sport often envision Paul Bunyon jogging along on a couple of dead trees, ax in tow.Hoeschler fought this stereotype when she attended Middlebury College in Vermont. Her mom shipped out her log (and is now in the process of working with manufacturers to create a piece-by-piece, easy-to-carry log) and Hoeschler recommenced her training and began teaching lessons at the college, demonstrating what the sport really entails.”When I first went five years ago, it definitely had the stereotype of a backcountry and lumberjack sport. But it’s changed over the last couple of years. People see now that it’s a lot of young men and women. We wear sports bras and Adidas shorts. It’s cute guys and cute girls, and it’s really athletic.”
Surprisingly, log rolling is relatively safe. Avon Rec Center aquatics director McGuire Scroggins was sold on Hoeschler’s log rolling classes and will likely take over instruction when she leaves later this spring.Not as dangerous as it looksA Wisconsin native himself, Scroggins has a new appreciation for log rolling.”I’m like 6 (foot) 2 (inches) and 200 pounds, so it’s pretty tough for me. But for a kid, it’s manageable,” Scroggins said. “It has a neat history. It served a purpose in the timber industry. It has a nostalgic thing for me. As far as safety concerns, we keep the log away from the side of the pool, so if you fall, about the worst you could get is a bump on your butt.”Scroggins said the response to log rolling from those unversed in the sport is largely the same.”Most people are like, ‘What is that? Who does that? That looks really hard.’ At the same time, they all want to try it,” he said.
Bode Miller does itAs a former ski racer, Hoeschler said that log rolling is great cross training. Those who have benefitted from the sport’s training benefits include Hoeschler’s ex-boyfriend – Bode Miller.”I taught him in Wisconsin, he came out for a month. He got good enough to roll with me on a big log,” Hoeschler said. “He could get me to fall off sometimes. If we got on a small log, I’d kill him.”As with boxing, wrestling, or any other sparring sport, the heavier competitor has a clear advantage in log rolling. He or she naturally controls the log, spinning it one way, then the other. In competition, athletes begin on a log that’s 14 inches in diameter. If neither falls after one minute, they move to a 13-inch log. If there is still no winner, the final round is conducted on a 12-inch log. Hoeschler said competitors watch each other’s feet and can also splash each other with one foot while keeping the other in motion.The draw of the sport? Hoeschler said it’s easy to get addicted.”For most people who do it, it’s a really unique sport,” she said. “It’s really, really challenging and athletic. It looks easy, but it’s challenging. And it’s fun to get someone else off the log. When people see it, they want to try it.”Sports Writer Shauna Farnell can be reached at 949-0555, ext.14632, or firstname.lastname@example.org.Vail, Colorado