There are some things that you don’t realise you need in your life until you actually see them. For many, STIHL Timbersports falls into this category.
STIHL Timbersports is the world’s top level of competitive woodchopping. The series which challenges competitors - hardened athletes who have put in years of training on the streets, in the gyms, and in the forests with axes in hand - to chop a block of wood on the clock in a variety of disciplines, whether that's with a saw, a racing axe or a chainsaw.
It is described by STIHL as “the major league of lumberjack sports… the most exciting sport you’ve never heard of”, and is undoubtedly one of the most unique, explosive sports you will ever watch.
As we said, there are some things that you don’t realise you need in your life until you actually see them.
Or so was the case for Elgan Pugh, a STIHL Timbersports athlete and Welsh chopper who claimed his fourth British Championship in the sport in August 2018 to secure the chance to compete in front of a home crowd at the STIHL Timbersports World Championships, which will take place in Liverpool on October 19 and 20.
There will be six different disciplines that each individual athlete will compete in at the World Championships. Three with an axe. Three with a saw. All against the clock.
There will be cross-cut saws a metre and a half long, and chainsaws that glide through blocks of wood like knives through butter. There will be racing axes; sharper than a comedian’s wit, capable of severing a limb with one missed swipe or, in the right hands, sweeping through a tree trunk in only a few more. And there will be only one winner - one STIHL Timbersports World Champion - at the end of the day.
"I think for people in Liverpool who have never seen the sport before it’s going to be a big eye opener. It’s going to blow them away..."
“When I was a young lad I used to go to the Royal Welsh Show with my parents and there used to be woodchopping competitions there,” Elgan tells us. “I didn’t try it out until 2010, when I joined a local axe club, and then through demonstrations and competitions I realised I was actually not too bad.
“I kept training and got involved with STIHL Timbersports in 2012. I was new to most disciplines. I was only used to the underhand chop [standing on a horizontal block, while chopping through it with an axe] and the standing block [chopping through a vertical block secured at chest height, also with an axe].
“I managed to finish in fourth place in my first championship and got completely hooked. I went away, trained harder, worked on all of the events and managed to win the British Championships for the first time in 2015.”
The winner of the annual British Championships earns the chance to represent their nation at the World Championships later that year. With Liverpool looming, this only increased the pressure for Pugh.
“That was on the minds of a lot of the people competing,” he says. “There was definitely an extra goal to winning this year - the chance to compete in the World Championships on home soil.
“Obviously my hope was to win again. That was the goal from the start. I knew it wasn’t going to be easy and that I’d have to perform to the best of my ability but I went out and did that from the start. I think that was what secured the win. I managed to win the first three events and that put me on top of the leaderboard and in a good position for the rest of the event.”
Qualifying for the World Championships is one thing. Winning it is quite another. Elgan will be up against powerhouse woodchoppers from across the world, including from the traditionally dominative nations of Australia, Canada, USA and New Zealand.
New Zealander and STIHL Timbersports legend Jason Wynyard has won eight of the last nine World Championships, and there has been only two non-New Zealanders to win the contest since 2005.
“I am looking forward to it of course,” Elgan says, “but I also know how much work I’ve got to do from now until then. I need to keep improving because I know the level I’m going to be up against.
“I do a combination of different types of training, from cardio to weight training to practising and training in all six events over and over again. The events are quite hard to practise. It’s easy to go to the gym for an hour or so but with the sport training you have to get on the wood and the wood has to be prepared and set up over and over again. Training is hard work. It’s not an easy sport.”
Elgan admits that it’s often quite difficult to describe exactly what he does to friends and family who haven’t seen STIHL Timbersports before.
"Training is hard work. It’s not an easy sport”
“The best way is to show some photographs and videos of the events so that they can actually see it,” he says. “I think for people in Liverpool who have never seen the sport before, the World Championships going to be a big eye opener. They will really enjoy it. It’s going to blow them away.
“When I’ve been to the World Championships before it’s been a bit of a concert. There’s good music, there’s a great atmosphere. And the crowd are really involved in what's going on too. It’s going to be brilliant. Especially with it being in Liverpool this year, and especially with it being a home crowd.”
There are some things that you don’t realise you need in your life until you actually see them.
For those who have seen STIHL Timbersports before, it should be blatantly clear that the World Championships coming up on October 19 and 20 will be absolutely unmissable.