Discover the Historic Sport of Logrolling

If you don’t live in the lumberjack world then you may never have heard of logrolling as a sport. It, alongside ax throwing and wood chopping, has always been popular in lumberjack sports.

Logrolling has been around since the 1800s. It is a sport that originated in the workplace, and by workplace, we mean the great outdoors. It may have started out as a necessity, then turned recreational but is now considered a competitive sport. 


We’ve had a closer look at what this historic sport of logrolling is all about. Up next we’re going to tell you about some interesting facts about the sport, who knows, you may be intrigued to try it out for yourself.    

Discover the Historic Sport of Logrolling
Image Source: Midwest Living


Logrolling started out in the US as a way of transporting logs. Thousands of trees were felled in remote areas and the logs were sent to wood buyers and sawmill towns via the river system in America. 

Very soon the rivers got jammed with all the logs floating downstream. Workers, called river-men or loggers, were then hired to navigate the logs in the rivers. 

They had to step on the logs to navigate them but were easily dumped in to the water by the spinning logs. The loggers had to quickly learn how to stay on the logs by rolling them with their feet.

Informal and Friendly Competition

Friendly competitions evolved when the loggers challenged each other to see who could stay on the log for the longest period.  According to many sources, an unofficial log rolling world championship took place in 1898 in Nebraska. 

After that championship, the sport started to spread. At the end of the 1800s, the need for log-navigating stopped as other means had been found to transport the logs. But logrolling was kept alive by men who passed the skill on to their children.

Since the early 1900s logrolling has been popular for its entertainment value. Competitions have been arranged from time to time and log rolling has become a part of most lumberjack sport meetings.

Basic Rules

Logrolling is a sport where two competitors, each on one end of a floating log in water compete with each other. The athletes battle to stay on the log by using techniques to cause the opponent to fall off.

The competitors are on the log in the water but they can’t touch each other, and there’s a center line that may not be crossed. Each competitor performs maneuvers with their feet to dislodge the opponent.

After the competitor has stepped on the log, he has to stay on it. The competitor never knows for how long he will be on the log – it can be only seconds or up to 5 minutes. If he makes one wrong move, he is in the water and has lost.

Playing Techniques

Competitors have to keep their knees bent and stay in a squat-like position during the entire time. Their feet must start working immediately when on the log, as the log is constantly spinning.

Logrolling requires serious focus and concentration, and a unique combination of strength, balance, and super swift footwork. Additionally, it is a sport both men and women participate in. 

There are rules for log rolling, and a world body, namely The Federation of International Log Rolling (FILR), regulating the sport.

Material Used As Logs

Originally logs for competitions were made out of pine or fir. However, competitors have always looked for logs that are easier to navigate. As the sport developed, other wood started to be used. 

Western red cedar proved to be a good source for competition logs. Red Cedar spun fast and floated high when two adults stood on the log. For competitions, all logs have to be cut to specific diameter and length specifications.

Until 1981 the athletes rolled exclusively on wood logs, using spiked shoes for traction. The spikes provided good traction on the log but destroyed the logs quickly. After 1981 Olefin fiber carpets have been put on the logs. 

Since 2012 a portable, 65-pound synthetic log which can be used in any type of water, is being used in competitions.

The Current Situation and the Way Forward

There is now more than 500 logrolling programs across 49 states where young athletes are being trained to be skilled log rolling competitors. 

The World Logrolling Championships are held annually as part of the Lumberjack World Championships. The United States Log Rolling Association lists more than 20 logrolling tournaments annually on their website.

Discover the Historic Sport of Logrolling
Image Source: Self Magazine


Although logrolling is not a very well-known sport globally, it is quite popular in the US in both the competitive realm and recreational realm. Whether it can develop into an Olympic game, remains to be seen!


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