Nature Of The Sport

The TASMANIAN AXEMEN'S ASSOCIATION aims to Promote, encourage and develop the Sport of Woodchopping throughout Australia

Charter of Woodchopping

Origins

The Sport of Woodchopping has its origins in the early days of Australia's settlement when the skills developed with axe and saws were essential for the clearing of land and construction of dwellings.  Competitive contests developed as a matter of course between bushmen of colonial Australia.
The first recorded competition between axemen was conducted in the town of Sprent on the North West Coast of Tasmania in 1870. Between 1870 and 1890 an undisclosed number of unofficial contests were conducted on a wager basis without official rules.
On June 13 1890 at Latrobe, Tasmania, H.R Nichols established the first AUSTRALIAN AXEMENS ASSOCIATION and drafted the initial set of rules for the conducting of woodchopping contests throughout Australasia. This official body was known as the United Australasian Axemen’s Association.
As a result, the first World Championship contest was held at Latrobe in 1891, and titles were conducted annually thereafter a pre-determined venues throughout Australia and New Zealand.
The current Championship system and Handicap system, to facilitate the fairest possible contest, evolved by trial and error.

Today

Today, woodchopping contests require refined skills from highly trained athletes who complete in a number of competitive discipline.  These disciplines have evolved from essential skills of the bushmen.  They simulate the feeling of the tree in the forest, removal of the unwanted head using axe or saw either by our individual ways or with a partner it was necessary to fall trees from a standing position, or in the case of big trees it was necessary to cut holes in the trunk and inset split rails to form from which to operate.  Sometimes more than one level had to be used, from this method, the current 3 board tree felling contest has evolved.
The standing event simulates a tree being felled from a standing position on the ground.
Underhand events evolved from the head of the tree being removed from the trunk by the bushman standing on the log and cutting it through from that position.
Similarly, single handed and double handed sawing events simulate the cutting into section of a tree using specially designed crosscut saws.
The Butchers Block and relay event simulates the felling of a tree from the Standing position by two men, one on each side of the tree.
In all but World Championship events, where contestants are deemed to start from scratch, competition is based on handicaps – the better contestants starting so many seconds behind the front mark.  Handicaps in Australia are based on competitions won.
Axes used in Woodchopping competitions are referred to as racing axes and are made of steel.  These vary in weight, depending on the event.  Axe handles are made of timber, normally hickory, but other varieties are used.  Competitors believe that the sharpening of the axe is an important skill and grinding is an indispensable part of their preparation.  The exact grind depends on whether the wood to be cut is hard or soft. 
There are approx 2,000 registered competitors in Australia and their ages range from 13 to 78, Junior events involving juvenile competitors from 6 to 13 are also conducted by many associations.  In the past, a large percentage of competitors worked in timber related industries, yet today more are coming from different backgrounds.  State and regional organizations control the sport at a local level, but since September 1971 the national sport has been overseen by the AUSTRALIAN AXEMEN’S ASSOCIATION.  Tournaments are held regularly at the Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Perth and Adelaide Royal Shows; at the Tasmanian Thousand, in January each year, and in a host of rural timber towns throughout Australia and New Zealand. 
Competitions are held in other countries – principally, New Zealand, USA, Canada, Spain and Finland – but it is only Australia and New Zealand that follow comparable rules.  Nonetheless, World Championships are held in Australia that regularly attract international competitors.