BURROUGH VALLEY -- When it comes to timbersports, Walt Page certainly has the chops.
You might even say the 29-year-old Tollhouse man has timber in his blood. Page's grandfather managed forests around Shaver Lake for Southern California Edison, and his dad is a logging contractor.
"I've been around forestry and timber work since I was old enough to go into the woods," Page says.
Page spends his summers logging and his winters working construction. And when he's not chopping and sawing for pay, he's chopping and sawing for fun in the Stihl Timbersports Series.
This weekend in Pigeon Forge, Tenn., Page will be among 20 competitors at the Stihl Timbersports U.S. Championship. The winner of Saturday's final round gets a new Dodge pickup and an invitation to the World Championship this fall in Stuttgart, Germany.
Page is technically a rookie in the Stihl Timbersports Series, and this will be his first appearance at nationals. But no one is selling the 6-foot-3, 200-pounder short since he won the Western Qualifier on April 26 in Missoula, Mont. -- and pocketed $2,500 in prize money.
"I'm excited because it's the next step," Page says. "It's a national competition. If this was golf, it would be like going from a regular tournament to the Masters."
Competitors in the Stihl Timbersports Series take part in six timed events. Three involve the use of axes (standing block chop, underhand chop and springboard chop), and the other three require saws (stock saw, hot saw and singlebuck).
Each of the six disciplines awards its own prize money. The lumberjack with the lowest combined time in all six is declared the all-around champion.
Since winning regionals, Page has spent almost every day honing his chopping and sawing skills in a half-finished barn on his family's ranch. (Walt and fiancée Caitlin will be married in that same barn June 15. He assures it'll look a lot different by then.)
Most of the events, whether chopping or sawing through a log, are finished in 20 seconds. The exception is the springboard, which requires about a minute because each lumberjack must first place two boards into axe-created pockets before standing on the higher one to chop the log in its desired place.
"It's my favorite event because it requires endurance," Page says. "Plus I'm young, dumb and not afraid of heights."
Each time Page swings his axe, huge chunks of wood fly off in several directions. The object in the chopping events is to split the log. In the sawing events, the object is to create a perfectly round disk -- or two of them.
In the stock saw event, lumberjacks use identical chainsaws with a 20-inch bar. Each competitor makes one downward cut and one upward cut from a resting position.
The hot saw is the souped-up version. Page's hot saw is powered by a 250cc engine from a Honda dirtbike and weighs 60 pounds -- about three times as much as a stock saw.
By contrast, the singlebuck requires each competitor to saw through a 19-inch log using a crosscut saw. The singlebuck is sometimes called the "misery whip" because of the physical toll it takes to operate it.
Besides the stock saw, all of Page's saws and axes are specialty tools. His crosscut saw, for example, is 6 feet, 3 inches long, custom made for him by a builder in Redding and costing more than $6,000.
Same goes for his competition axes.
"You can't get axes like this at Home Depot," says Page, who got involved with timbersports while attending Cal Poly. "The steel has to be good enough quality so that you can draw it out to a fine edge and still hold its sharpness."
Timbersport events are based on traditional lumberjack skills, even if tools like the singlebuck are mostly used today in wilderness areas where chainsaws are prohibited.
But even modern-day lumberjacks still have to chop firewood, and Page does plenty of that.
"His firewood, and everyone else's, too," jokes Logan Page, Walt's twin brother. They're identical, except Logan lacks Walt's thick, bushy beard.
Preliminary rounds of the Stihl Timbersports U.S. Championship are Friday with the top 10 scorers advancing to Saturday's final.
"If I can make it to the championship day," Page says, "I'm going to be a very happy individual."
Stihl Timbersports U.S. ChampionshipWhen: Friday-Saturday
Where: Pigeon Forge, Tenn.
Video streaming: Live at Stihltimbersports.us
TV: June 19 at 5 a.m., June 20 at 6 a.m. and June 23 at noon on the Outdoor Channel
The reporter can be reached at (559) 441-6218 or firstname.lastname@example.org.