LUMBERJACK LEGACY: Duncan’s Chase Gundersen rises through the ranks

Chase Gundersen’s grandfather, Glen Berry, competes in a logger sports event in Sooke in the 1970s, using the axe that Gundersen now uses in competition. (Submitted)

Chase Gundersen’s grandfather, Glen Berry, competes in a logger sports event in Sooke in the 1970s, using the axe that Gundersen now uses in competition. (Submitted)

Chase Gundersen was born into a logger sports legacy. That legacy has taken him to the sport’s national podium, and it’s about to bring him home.

The Duncan-born lumberman finished third in the rookie division at the Stihl Timbersports Canadian Championship in London, Ont. in early August and is now preparing for a logger sports competition at the Cowichan Exhibition on Sept. 9.

Rookie competitors at the Canadian championships had to battle through four events: chainsaw race, crosscut saw race, underhand chop, standing chop. Placings in each event determined the final score, and when the sawdust settled, Gundersen was third out of six entrants.

“I was in the middle of the pack all day, which was good enough to beat the other three,” he said.

It’s not easy for just anyone to get into logger sports, and Gundersen was fortunate enough to be able to follow a family lineage to get there. His grandfather, Glen Berry, competed out of Lake Cowichan in the 1960s and ’70s, and his mom, Shar Berry, competed in the ’80s and ’90s.

“Really, to get into it, you have to know somebody,” Gundersen said. “It takes a few years of training before you can start competing.”

The 20-year-old Gundersen has been involved for most of his life, and has been training to compete at the national level for about four years. Logger sports aren’t just in his blood — they’re in his hands, too, as he competes using the axe his grandfather, who died last August, used in his competitions.

Gundersen started by competing on Vancouver Island, which, not surprisingly, is a hotbed of logger sports.

“Vancouver Island has some of the best logger sports in Canada,” Gundersen said. “The Canadian champion and the second-place guy both compete on the Island.”

Canadian champion Mitch Hewitt hails from Scotch Creek, and runner-up Stirling Hart calls Maple Ridge home, but both athletes have lots of experience on the Vancouver Island circuit.

“Weirdly enough, even though they’re just country fairs, there’s a logger sports show at most fairs on the Island,” Gundersen noted.

Gundersen and his mom are helping to organize the competition at the Cowichan Exhibition this year. Gundersen plans to compete, and will also be seen in the Laughing Loggers entertainment shows on Sept. 8 and 10.

The list of entrants hasn’t been finalized, but Hewitt and Hart have stated their intentions to compete at the Cowichan event as well.

“I can’t be 100 per cent, but they said they were interested in coming,” Gundersen said. “There will be a lot of high-calibre competitors.”

In addition to competing, Gundersen works for both the Laughing Loggers, who will perform on Friday and Sunday of the Cowichan Exhibition, and does part-time work for Timberland Productions, who put on the lumberjack show at Grouse Mountain. He also works as a welder in the winter. A rugby player, too, Gundersen took the pitch for Cowichan Secondary School and the Cowichan Piggies, but has been sidelined for the last two years with a knee injury. He plans to return to that sport, “The second I’m finally healed.”

Cross-training with rugby has helped Gundersen in the logger sports world as well.

“I definitely gained a lot of muscle mass playing rugby. I went from being a tiny, skinny kid to 180 lbs. I gained about 40 lbs playing and training for rugby.”

The Canadian championships were filmed and will air on TSN sometime in September. Meanwhile, fans or anyone else curious about the logger sports can check out the competition at the Cowichan Exhibition on Sept. 9, or the Laughing Loggers shows on Sept. 8 or 10.

 

Duncan’s Chase Gundersen (left) takes third place in the rookie division at the Stihl Timbersports Canadian Championships in London, Ontario, in August. (Submitted)

Duncan’s Chase Gundersen (left) takes third place in the rookie division at the Stihl Timbersports Canadian Championships in London, Ontario, in August. (Submitted)