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All You Need to Know About the Sport of Log Rolling

08/20/2014 05:21 EDT | Updated 10/20/2014 05:59 EDT

Head down to any busy waterfront during the hot summer months and you'll hear the hum of motorboats, jet-ski's and parasailing boats bouncing around the bays. Sun-seekers looking for more serene fun in the sun can choose from kayaking, canoeing and swimming. But what if you're looking to ditch the motorized movement and keep all the mojo? Well, there's a thrilling human-powered activity that will keep you by the water -- and there's no bathing suit required. In fact, spiked shoes are most important -- and we don't mean stilettos.

River Dance

The name of the game is log rolling and it's pretty simple: a log rolls as two people try to balance atop it. The competition takes place on open, moving water with one participant on each end of the log. As rolling commences, propelled by the feet, competitors are known to use tactics including changing the direction of the spin, stalling the log in place and, incredibly, even hopping in order to plunge the opposite end under water -- a little trick known as "bobbing the log" -- to throw one's opponent off balance.

The elite among these river tap dancers are even known to dip one foot into the drink mid-roll to kick water up into their opponents' faces. After all of the fancy footwork, the person who stays upright the longest, or who falls in the water last, is declared the winner. And while it stimulates the crowds of today, log rolling wasn't always a form of entertainment. Beginning in the late 1800's, men were tasked with moving slews of logs great distances to keep up with the demand for timber. With the absence of trucks and roads, those in the logging industry got creative.

It's Legitimate

While it's evident that hipsters have rejuvenated the plaid industry and re-popularized the substantial bushy beard, whiskered and flannel-clad outdoor enthusiasts have long been around in the form of lumberjacks. While frontier towns were being built, these nimble nature experts used waterways to transport collections of logs to developing areas around Canada and the United States. Using crudely constructed spiked boots, the men stood on top of the logs, rolling them to keep them bunched together as they maneuvered downriver to their destination -- a process known as "driving." At the sawmills, a successful trip was celebrated with axe-throwing and sawing contests. Really, it's not too different from meeting co-workers at a pub to throw darts after a busy day. A dart, however, carries less risk of splitting a wall in half.

Anyone Can Roll

The legendary culture of lumberjacks has enjoyed a revival in recent years with lumberjack competitions popping up all over. Crowds of people gather to compete in events like hotsaw, springboard chop, and axe throw, though log rolling arguably invokes the most hilarity. Anyone is eligible to compete in the various categories of Junior, Adult, Semi-Pro, Elite, and Masters, as long as they abide by the rules set by two main governing bodies: The United States Log Rolling Association and the Canadian Logger Sports Association, known as CANLOG. Plaid and facial hair may be optional but the proper equipment is not. The axe you grabbed from your neighbour's tool shed eons ago might not cut it, but standardized axes, saws and competition logs are available for purchase and are a must for lumberjacks and lumberjills in training.

All in all, if you're looking for a way to stay cool this summer and walking -- or running -- on water sounds like an attractive venture, the boisterous undertaking of log rolling may be the water sport for you. Just get ready to go for a dip because, let's face it, newcomers will likely be spending more time in the water than atop it. Not ready to roll with it? Check out your community listings for events near you and watch this throwback sport make a splash.

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