They may be welders, logger and farmers in the off-season, but when competition season comes around, these guys are world-class lumberjack champions.
Celista residents, Carson Bischoff and Mitch Hewitt, are well-known throughout the lumberjack circut. They are also champions within the sport.
The pair have taken home more awards than they can count and neither is finished yet.
This down-to-earth duo both come have families who compete.
Carson’s dad, Karl Bischoff, began competing back in the ‘70s and, like his son, has won an extensive selection of awards.
Carson also has a number of cousins who have tried their hand at competing over the years but no longer take part in the sport.
Mitch’s father, Kerry Hewitt, and brother Lindsay Hewitt compete in Mitch’s home country of Australia.
The family dynamic is a common thing in the lumberjack community, explains Carson.
Before the use of heavy equipment such as fellor bunchers and processors, people had to do the work by hand.
It was common to see families who would make careers out of logging, which made it easy to enter into lumberjack sports as a pass-time.
Carson entered his first log rolling competition in Nanimo at the age of seven. This, explained Carson, is how most kids get into it.
“We started off with basic events and work our way up,” he said. “It is kind of like rodeo.”
He now competes in every event he can.
Lumberjack competitions consist of many different events including log rolling, standing block chop, underhand block chop and hot-saw competitions, among others.
While the sports may look easy, they require strength, technique and endurance.
“My favorite event is springboard,” said Mitch.
“It is a more difficult event because anything can happen. How you chop your block on top is largely affected by how well you cut your board holes. Messing up one board hole can change your outcome completely.”
When asked why they like the competitions, both Mitch and Carson have the same answer.
Mitch agrees. “It is actually what led me to meeting my wife of 10 years. I came over to Canada to compete in the circuit over here and met her at her dads (Karl Bishoff’s) lumberjack show in Celista.”
Carson says that when competing across the world it is not unusual to stay at another competitors house.
“It is a great way to see different cultures,” he says.
Canada’s Lumberjack season begins May long weekend and continues until September.
However, some people follow it year round, says Carson. “You can travel the world and keep going.”
The two men and their families have done just that.
They have been to Japan, Austria, Holland, USA, and across Canada competing.
Mitch conducted demonstrations in Indonesia as well.
“It is definitely a pretty cool aspect, being able to see the world just because I can swing an axe,” said Carson.
Despite his many achevments, Carson still laughs in disbelief that people are willing to pay for him to attend their events.
“I was once flown out to New Zealand just to climb a tree and show people how to run a chainsaw,” laughed Carson.
“I try to make it a hobby but it often turns into a full time thing,” said Carson. “It can be very time-consuming.”
Karl, Carson and Mitch all regularly compete and place at events each year.
Last year Mitch took home the title of world springboard champion for the eighth time (he has also come in second for the title six times in the past) along with multiple other first-place awards.
This family of lumberjacks has also broken a number of world records. They include Mitch’s four springboard records and Karl’s also broke a record in a standing block chop competition. Despite their reputations as fierce competitors, the guys remain humble.
When not competing, Carson makes a living as a welder and Mitch works as a logger with Karl.
They play ball and tend to their farms, relax with their families and live a fairly normal lifestyle.
Mitch’s son Jake, has already taken up the family sport. His competing career began at the young age of five.
Time will only tell if he will follow in his father’s footsteps and become a world champ.
For anyone who would like to see the Shuswap champs in action, Mitch, Karl, and Carson will all be competing at the Stihl Timbersports Competition in Chase on July 14.