UC Berkeley's team of lumberjacks train for competitions

KGO logo
Thursday, November 27, 2014
EMBED <>More Videos

The face of the modern lumberjack is changing, and nowhere is that more apparent than in the Bay Area.

BERKELEY, Calif. (KGO) -- When you envision a lumberjack, you probably think of a big grizzly, Paul Bunyan of a man, towing his ax and hacking away at the forest. But the face of the modern lumberjack is changing, and nowhere is that more apparent than right here in the Bay Area.

Logging sports are gaining popularity across the country. There's even a team at UC Berkeley. We caught up with them at a recent practice.

Connor Stephens is one the team members, "We come out here on Sundays, basically to blow off steam, cut some wood with chainsaws or axes, or bucksaws over there.

"There's tree climbing, there are some watersports, there's burling, like you run on a log in the water," said teammate Elynn Hagelshaw.

Cal logger Justine Zeni added, "And it is also just fun, I mean who doesn't want to come out and just chop wood."

Most of this team's members are women, something that sets Cal's team apart.

"It's definitely different to have more women," said Zeni, "People definitely notice us and they always know -- Berkeley is coming again with 10 women and one guy."

The men don't seem to mind.

"It's not a bad thing," said Connor with a smile.

Scott Stephens is a professor in the hundred year old Forestry Department at Cal. He says the logging club has been around nearly as long as the department itself.

"The women have really flourished here," he said. "It's interesting how the program used to be totally male dominated."

Berkeley's logging team reflects the demographics of the university's forestry major. Two-thirds of the students are female, the opposite of most other programs.

Advisor Stephens said, "The club today is an interesting group because it has the forestry majors, we also have forestry minors, so people can get a minor in forestry, and there actually are people who have neither of those, and actually join the club anyways."

The team competes all over the West, most recently in the Santa Cruz Mountains, where a number of the women led their events.

Logging looks dangerous, but there are relatively few injuries.

Regardless of who's swinging the ax, it's about more than just winning.

"You just get to get out your aggression in a really fun way," said Hagelshaw.

"This is like a calming thing," said Zeni. "It's a great way, especially because we are at Berkeley, we live in the city, this is a great way to get out in the country while still going to school in the city."

To learn more about the Cal Logging Sports Team, click here.

written and produced by Ken Miguel