Hayward, WI (NNCNOW.com) --- For 54 years now, competitors have gathered each July to compete in the Lumberjack World Championships in Hayward, Wisc. With over $50,000 in prize money, it brings in the best of the best.
"I want that world title," said Nancy Zalewski, a sawyer and chopper. "I want that world record that says I'm the best."
"I came here a couple of years ago and competed with torn ligaments in both ankles, but I wasn't going to miss this weekend for the world," said Sterling Hart, a speed climber and chopper.
Whether it's chopping or speed climbing, twenty–one world champions were crowned in what competitor Shana Martin calls "lumberjack paradise."
"There's this feeling that you can't compare when you come into the Lumberjack bowl, like the second you walk into it. It's this nervous excitement, like wow, we're at the world championships. There's nothing that compares to this," Martin said.
Most of the athletes here have a full–time job on top of doing lumberjack competitions almost every weekend. But, they say it's not a hobby they plan on giving up anytime soon.
"I actually have a full–time job. I'm a chemist," said Zalewski.
"You can't really make money and make a living on this, to be honest. It's just a side hobby."
"It would be so nice if this was full–time," said Martin.
Full–time or not, it's a passion that started for many competitors when they were just kids.
"My Dad strapped me into the three and said don't tell your Mom. Me being four–year–old, I didn't really have a choice," said Hart. "I just started doing it and grew to love it."
"It's in my blood that might be a reason why," said Dakota Robarg, a speed climber and log roller. "I love it. I wouldn't choose anything over it. This would be my life right here."
A life that despite the setbacks will always include lumberjack competitions.
"I've fallen down trees, had trees almost fall down on me, cut my face, broken everything, and I still would never stop doing it," Hart said.
Posted by Sarah Wheeler