by Abby Hoeschler Delaney
"The only thing we love more than competing in log rolling is sharing the sport with others."
For our family, the connections to log rolling run deep. My parents met on a log rolling dock in the 1970s when my dad was in Hayward, Wisconsin to work a summer tourism job. Despite the sport being a mystery to much of the country, the hype surrounding log rolling in the historical logging town has always been huge. Every year, Hayward hosts the World Log Rolling Championships. Back then, that excitement was enough to convince my dad he needed to give it a try. He found a willing teacher in my mom, who had been log rolling since she was 12. The two of them fell in love with the sport and each other.
By the time my siblings and I were four years old, my mom, Judy, had us all on a log. "Log rolling is in our blood," says my brother, Will. "I can't even remember a time when I didn't do it. We are all bonded by our love for this unique sport." That lake where my parents met is the same place my siblings and I now compete as a competitive sport, log rolling is intense. It's a sparring sport. You are extremely close to your opponent, but there's no physical contact. It's one person against another, each standing on one end of the same log. Whoever stays on the log the longest wins. You take very small, quick steps to stay on top of the log to keep up with its spin. To throw your opponent off, you can change the direction the log is spinning or kick water at your opponent. It's a real adrenaline rush.
The only thing we love more than competing in log rolling is sharing the sport with others. The experience of watching someone's eyes light up and seeing that huge smile on their face as they "get it" for the first time is as big a thrill as the combined 20 world championships we've won. Every time we put a log in the water at our Spider Lake cabin, people flock to it like bees to honey. The reactions and the fun we've watched people have are a big part of what pushed us to dedicate ourselves to growing the sport. We want other people to share the experience: the gratification of mastering a craft, the satisfaction of winning a match, the joy of bringing people together. Our goal is to see log rolling become so popular it is in the Olympics one day. It's a big dream, and one that required a very clear first step. We had to make the sport's equipment more accessible so it was easier for people to try. "Log rolling has traditionally been done on wood logs with spiked shoes," says Judy. "But to grow the sport to Olympic status, we needed to come up with a way to make the 500-pound logs portable." So, we developed the Key Log. It's a 65-pound, synthetic log that rolls just like a western red cedar log once it is filled with water. We also created resistance training fins that slow and stabilize the Key Log making log rolling easier for beginners. You can progress from beginner to advanced with one piece of equipment.
Log rolling is actually easiest in shallow water, close to the beach, which allows the little ones to give it a spin. It's also an exciting spectator sport, so even those relaxing on the dock can laugh and cheer with the whole group. You don't have to come from a family of world champion log rollers to experience the fun of log rolling with friends and family at the lake. Every year on the 4th of July, our family hosts a log rolling party at our cabin in Hayward. It starts with a few logs floating in the water, and it ends with a beach full of friends. Some are new, some are old, and all of them are smiling and laughing. At the end of the day, everyone tells us the same thing: they understand why we love the sport of log rolling. My mom lights up when she talks about it. "People who are driving past in boats see what we're doing, and they stop because they want to give it a try," she says. "Log rolling is fun; it's social, and it attracts a crowd. Everyone wants to try it. The sport is definitely addictive. People keep coming back because they want to master it."
Log rolling is a sport anyone can start at any age. With a log, at least two feet of water, and a little practice, there will be no more boring or lonely days at the lake or pool. It's a bonus that log rolling is not only fun, but also a great workout with some serious cardio and core benefits, even for beginners. In my experience, first time log rollers don't realize how hard they're working because they're having so much fun. Unlike running on pavement, log rolling is very low-impact because it's in the water. Anyone can have fun while also getting fit. You may even see log rolling at your local rec center. With the sport growing nationwide, it's getting easier for people to give it a try. In the past four years, programs have been established in nine countries and in more than 500 communities at camps, colleges, and military bases in the U.S. In Minnesota, log rolling clubs are popping up around the state. Its portability is also bringing log rolling back to the cabin. People all over are buying their own logs to use as a fun and social lake activity. You may not have the history with log rolling my family does, but we want you to be part of the future with us. I am quite sure all it will take is one roll for you to fall in love... and make you the most popular home.