Stirling Hart
Stirling Hart in the springboard competition.

Axe Man

You've chopped wood, but never like this

Stirling Hart
Nathan Hurst

Heading out the door? Read this article on the new Outside+ app available now on iOS devices for members! Download the app.

Over three days in late July, 110 professional lumberjacks rolled through Hayward, Wisconsin for the 52nd-annual Lumberjack World Championships. Competing in 18 events, from a standing block chop to a 90-foot scramble up a cedar pole, 59 men and 51 women hacked, sawed, and climbed their way to a prize purse worth $50,000. Among the masses, Stirling Hart, of Vancouver, British Columbia, stood out as one of the best all-around athletes. He didn’t win any events, but he placed in three. We caught up with 5-foot, 8-inch, 170-pound, 22-year-old professional lumberjack to find out how he ekes out a living.

Stirling Hart

Stirling Hart Stirling Hart in the pole climb.

19.64: Seconds it took Stirling Hart to scale (and descend) a 90-foot pole, using spurred climbing shoes and a steel-reinforced rope, in 2010—a world record.

26: Seconds it takes Hart to chop through a 12-inch diameter cedar log.

30: Axes in Hart’s quiver, each for a different type of chopping. “It’s like a golf bag,” he says.

$500: Cost of Hart’s most expensive axe, from Tuhati, New Zealand.

$20,000: Amount Hart estimates he has invested in equipment.

$5,000: Cost of Hart’s yearly travel to events and competitions.

0: Number of corporate sponsorships that help Hart cover his costs.

8: Age at which Hart joined his first professional lumberjack competition—against grown men. “I got my butt kicked for the first 10 years,” he says.

3: Shows Hart performs per day, seven days a week, six months a year, for an entertainment gig at Grouse Mountain in Vancouver, where the lumberjacks are mic’d up and tell jokes.

20: Other exhibitions—of up to 14 days each—along with 10 competitions, that Hart enters each year.

5: Times Hart has gone to the hospital for a lumberjack-related injury.

$0: Cost of his most frightening injury, when a 6-pound axe with an 8-inch blade fell on his face after a springboard competition, leaving a 5-inch gash from just below his right eye to his mouth. “Luckily, I had insurance,” he says.

$100: Yearly cost of Hart’s insurance. “I’ve broken my feet a few times, just coming down the tree and landing funny, but never had to pay anything out-of-pocket,” he says. “That’s when it’s good to be a Canadian.”