What was once a lumberjack’s favorite sport is now taking the country by storm, or rather, by river.
Last weekend, students from UCSB claimed both the men’s and women’s championships at the Key Log Rolling Collegiate Tournament Series hosted by UCLA. Sixteen participants from UCSB, UCLA, and CSU Northridge competed. Willem Geier and Iris Wu came out on top.
The first collegiate logrolling tournaments — one of which was hosted by UCSB — took place last year, and since then, the sport has only grown in popularity. Two competitors go head-to-head, standing on opposite ends of a log and spinning it with their feet at different speeds and directions until one of them is thrown off.
The sport took root in America in the 1800s, when mass amounts of lumber were needed to build the country’s expanding cities. Rivers provided natural transportation for the wood, and men were hired to prevent jams. To avoid falling, workers learned to roll the logs, soon competing with each other to see who could stay on top the longest. From there, logrolling was passed down through the generations.
Until 1981, competitive rollers used wooden logs and wore spiked shoes to prevent slipping. But this caused wood-chip problems for the pools where tournaments were held. Fortunately, seven-time logrolling champion Judy Scheer Hoeschler solved that problem by carpeting the logs, but the issue of acquiring and transporting a 500-pound cedar log remained.
Years later, Hoeschler’s daughter, Abby Hoeschler Delaney, developed the Key Log, a 65-pound synthetic product that spins, reacts, and floats just like the real thing. Together, the Hoeschlers cofounded the company Key Log Rolling, and the sport spread to nine countries, 150 colleges, and more than 500 camps, clubs, and military bases around the United States.
According to UCSB champ Geier, “The synthetic log has really changed the sport.” He and the other competitors lug theirs every Friday to the campus’s Recreation Center to practice.
The UCLA tournament is part of a long-term plan to take logrolling to the Olympics someday. In 2017, the United States Aquatic Log Rolling Organization was established as the sanctioning body, creating a set of rules and standards. Key Log Rolling plans to hold the first United States championships in 2019.