By Ken Boness
Some say champions are born. Others say champions are made. In the case of Erin LaVoie, it would seem both are true. A competitive spirit became evident during her formative years, but it was the combination of “will to win” and “ability to win” that has defined her exceptional career.
Start in Forestry
Born in Spokane, Washington, LaVoie’s outdoor inclinations led her to enroll in the forestry programs at Spokane Community College and Eastern Washington University. Schools that have forestry programs often field interscholastic teams in lumberjack sports. Just one year of competing as an amateur was all that was needed to convince Erin she wanted to expand her involvement — to compete as a professional. She wanted to explore the world, not just the world of sawing and chopping but the planet, as well.
Erin being interviewed after an event. (Above) Erin LaVoie on left during the Lumberjack
Mission accomplished. Foreign competitions and demonstrations have taken LaVoie to Canada, Australia, New Zealand, China, and Germany. Travel-related expenses are a significant obstacle for competitors so securing sponsors is a must. LaVoie’s foremost sponsor is Kill Cliff, a brand of beverages relied upon by athletes in a wide variety of intense endeavors for a quick recovery.
Lumberjack competitors train with varying intensities, with some stepping up physical conditioning as the season approaches. LaVoie, on the other hand, has made maintaining body tone her career. Opening Predation Crossfit in Spokane, Erin established an all-encompassing training facility. Working with clients naturally keeps Erin fit but ‘fit’ isn’t sufficient. The details of a competitive endeavor must be attended to. Honed. Perfected. Practiced. For Erin, training with axe and saw in hand requires wood, and for that commodity she relies on Robert Groce, a friend and supporter.
As in logging, planning the work and working the plan are very important — the location, angle, and order of the axe blows, as well as placement of the feet on the logs and hands on the axe handle. The position of the head and the feet in crosscut sawing, movement of the arms, angles of the thrust, and withdrawal are all reviewed over and over in Erin’s head with the intensity of the review increasing as the moment of competition approaches.
LaVoie’s favorite event is the Underhand Chop. Standing atop a horizontal log, Erin is its master in the truest sense, for the log is totally at her mercy. And ‘mercy’ is in short supply when the timer says, “GO!” The axe head whistles through its arc. The log groans. Chips the size of saucers fly. Erin’s feet swap positions. The backside of the log is attacked. The two ends of the log move independently. And LaVoie steps down. Smiling. Sweating. Evaluating the skill of her work. (It took me longer to write this paragraph than Erin consumes in subduing a log with one of her axes.)
All of that work, that planning, that conditioning came together this summer at the 2018 Lumberjack World Championships held in Hayward, Wisconsin. LaVoie won the Underhand Chop championship but finished seventh in the Women’s Single Buck, a second and a quarter behind Kate Witkowski (WI).
Those two women teamed up in the Jill & Jill Double Buck and took top honors. As did Matt Cogar (WV) and Jason Lentz (WV) in the Men’s Double Buck. That pairing is of significance as Lentz is LaVoie’s Jack & Jill partner, while Cogar matches up with Witkowski. Although neither woman was part of the winning Jack & Jill team LaVoie/Lentz took second place and, less than one second behind, Witkowski/Cogar placed third.
When the last chip had fallen, LaVoie was declared All Around Lady Jill with Witkowski holding second place. Lentz took the equivalent honors for the men with Cogar close behind. With a spring in her step, Erin mounted the chopping/sawing deck one more time to accept her award. Smiling. Appreciative. Gracious. And knowing that all the work was worth it.
On the Cover
This photo of a Tigercat LS855E Leveling Shovel Logger was taken this
September during the Pacific Logging Congress 2018 Live In-Woods Show.
Idaho Mill Gets High-tech Makeover
The Idaho sawmill of Woodgrain Millwork is on the upswing
Managing the Unmanageable
Lane Parry consults with federal and private landowners
A Look at a Lumberjack Champion
Behind the scenes with Northwest champion Erin LaVoie
Redwood Region Resource Rally
Rally recruits and engages the next generation of natural resource professionals
Firebreak Column — Paradise Lost
The mega California fires and the fallout
Cutting edge technology defining tomorrow