By: Anastasia Penchi

La Crosse County is at the epicenter of a sport that was started by lumberjacks…

Timber in remote areas was transported to cities via river, and lumberjacks were tasked with stepping on the floating logs and kicking them loose. It wasn’t long before challenges and competitions were formed.

Today’s log rollers aren’t the burly, bearded Paul Bunyan-type lumberjacks you’d expect — you wouldn’t be able to pick them out of a crowd.

Jacob and Katie Rick, a pair of sibling log rollers from Onalaska, spread their passion for the sport by holding the Three Rivers Roleo Log Rolling Tournament July 8 – 9 on the Black River, near the west end of Main Street in Onalaska at the Great River Landing.

This event offers a one-day tournament for professional men and women log rollers, and a second day for amateurs to try their hand (or should I say feet?) at it.

Here are the top five reasons to attend:

Logrolling is fun to watch

As you might expect, a competition created by testosteronies whose livelihood was based on axes and danger tends to get competitive. Log rollers are allowed (and often encouraged by crowds) to kick water in their opponents’ faces. This can be a risky move, but isn’t it fun to momentarily blind someone who is running on a rolling log in the middle of a river? Log rollers are also permitted to rock the log back and forth in the water in an attempt to knock their opponent off balance. While it is not acceptable to kick or trip or push an opponent off a log, I’m sure someone out there has mastered the log juke.

It has a vocabulary all its own

“Bobbing the log” is when a roller rocks the log back and forth — putting their opponent’s feet under water to make it more difficult for them. “Checking it down” is a phrase used by judges when they want the log rollers to slow down and get control of the log again. A “bucking match” is when two rollers face the opposite direction and fight for control of the direction the log is rolling. I think my husband and I have our own “bucking match” over the television remote at night. How many fishing and hunting shows does someone need to watch anyway?

You could be seen on TV

Remember that dream? The one where Aaron Rodgers throws the 50-yard pass and you catch it and run it into the end zone for the game winning touchdown? Remember the footage being played over and over on national TV? Well, wake up. It’s not going to happen. However, you might be able to still catch a glimpse of yourself on Fox Sports thanks to Katie Rick, the event co-founder who also produces the tournament’s TV footage. In the past, the tournament was broadcast on Fox Sports Wisconsin and on Fox Sports North in Minnesota. Maybe it’s not the running back material you’ve been dreaming about, but isn’t it better than nothing?

We have several local stars

La Crosse County is home to some log rolling bigwigs. Recognize the name Hoeschler from La Crosse real estate signs? Not only is the Judy Scheer-Hoeschler a seven-time world champion, but several of her family members also hold world champion titles. The Three River Roleo founders, Jacob and Katie Rick, are from Onalaska, and many other professionals and amateurs call this area home. These experts also train people to coach log rolling. I know this because I once benefitted from their expertise when I took summer logrolling classes with my oldest son. Yes, I failed miserably because I am too uncoordinated, but I laughed enough to make up for my shortcomings. At the Three Rivers Roleo, they will show you how it’s really supposed to be done.

It’s all leading up to the World competition in Hayward, Wis.

The US Log Rolling Open (the season opener) precedes the Three River Roleo in June, along with the La Crosse Open and Midwest Championships in Madison. After that, the Namekagon River Roll Off in Hayward takes place just before the Lumberjack World Championships, which is also held in Hayward. At the Lumberjack World Championship, more than 100 competitors compete for some serious prize money. Who knows? By attending the Three Rivers Roleo, you could be watching this year’s world champion log roller in action.

If you would like to plan your future as a log rolling coach or just learn more about the Three Rivers Roleo Log Rolling Tournament, visit its Web site at www.threeriversroleo.com.

Anastasia Penchi

Anastasia Penchi

Freelance writer

Anastasia Penchi is graduate of UW-La Crosse and a long-time Coulee Region writer who has written for area newspapers and magazines (www.loislaneforhire.com).

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