BIBLE HILL, N.S. – When envisioning a lumberjack, you probably don’t think of Kamryn Findlay, but you should.
“People say to me, ‘you do lumberjacking?’” said Findlay. “They picture big burly men doing it.”
The 24-year-old Springhiller competes on the Stihl Timbersports Series and, also, on the Maritime Lumberjack Association circuit.
She says a lot more women are competing in timber sports now.
“The women divisions are growing, and a lot of them are coming out of college and university.”
Findlay is studying for her Master of Science degree at the Dalhousie Faculty of Agriculture in Bible Hill.
“I competed for five years on the varsity university team and I just finished my third season at the pro-level.”
Since turning pro, Findlay travels to 10 to 15 competitions a season, which runs from May to October. The final competition this season was in Fryeburg, Maine.
“There were 150 competitors there, both men and women, and I came home with two or three ribbons” said Findlay. “It was a really good season. We accumulate points for placing, and I usually end up in the top four or six.”
She competes in several disciplines, including the underhand chop, the standing block chop, the bow saw, the single buck saw, and the axe throw.
Axe throwing is also a sport unto itself.
“I throw an axe at targets all year round,” said Findlay. “I went to the Canadian Axe Throwing National Championships and I placed in the top six in that competition.”
Technical skill is at least as important as strength and endurance.
“You need to take the time to fine tune your sawing techniques and chopping angles but also to have endurance,” said Findlay. “Some events are like doing a sprint, where you complete a chop in less than 30 seconds, so you need strength, endurance, and the technique behind it.”
At university, Findlay studies aquatic life and their habitat.
“In my Masters research, I worked with striped bass in the bay of Fundy. I’m hoping to do more fisheries research,” said Findlay. “I’m really looking forward to doing more research at the PHD level and hopefully be able to work with the department of fisheries and oceans.”
She brings the same passion, expertise and focus to timber sports that she brings to her studies.
“I compete in a lot of different events, so you can always fine tune and improve your sawing skills, your chopping, and your accuracy,” said Findlay. “So, in both my research and in my sport, there’s always new challenges, there’s always something new to learn.”
Findlay’s schedule is packed. Along with her studies and her busy competition schedule, she’s the student recruitment co-ordinator at the Dalhousie Faculty of Agriculture, a Roe-Win-Lea dairy leader, a woodsman coach with the TNR 4-H Club in Colchester County, and she also has four part-time jobs, including tutoring and working as a teacher’s assistant.
She says practicing timber sports is a good stress reliever.
“Running a chain saw, throwing an axe and being able to chop some wood is a total body workout,” said Findlay.
She attributes her time-management skills to her family and to growing up in Springhill.
“When I was in high school I was involved in Girl Guides, horseback riding, 4-H, and I showed cattle. I was always involved in community activities,” said Findlay. “And my family is very community driven, doing fundraisers and being involved in the community.”
And how long does she plan to keep competing in timber sports?
“I compete alongside men and women that are in their 70s, so I hope that when I’m in my 50s I’m still competing.”
2018 Pasek Travel and Training Grant
Findlay was one of two timber sports competitors in the world to receive the 2018 Pasek Travel and Training Grant, which is worth $1,500 US. The other competitor was from Australia.
“The grant is given to new competitors who are establishing themselves in the sport and have some financial constraints,” said Findlay. “This will enable me to be able to further myself in the sport and buy more wood for training.”
The Pasek family has a website, worldwidewoodchop.com, that posts timber sports information from throughout the world. Part of the grant application was writing a letter.
“I was very lucky and I was very honoured to have received the grant,” said Findlay.
She will also use the money for registration fees and equipment.
“I would like to buy a new training single-buck saw and, hopefully, a refurbished chainsaw.”
Findlay is constantly saving money to help her compete, and she also earns money in competitions, but considers herself lucky if she breaks even.
“Any money I do make goes towards registration, gas, accommodations, as well as new competition gear and new training gear,” said Findlay.