Kimi Sekorski fell in love with woodsman sports when she was in high school. Now on the Woodsmen Team at Paul Smith's College of the Adirondacks (and recent MVP award winner), she's one of the most genuinely disciplined, badass, and strong people we've ever met (she helped us out a lot when we were learning to chop and saw).
PW: So. Did you grow up doing this stuff?
KS: I grew up playing outside every day as a kid. My mother would joke that there was a contest for who came home the dirtiest: me, covered in mud from a hard day of exploring the backyard, or my dad, who works construction. Usually, it was me. As a kid my dad and grandfather took me hunting and fishing every chance they had so I developed a love for preserving the outdoors at a very young age.
PW: How did you get into chopping wood and throwing axes?
KS: I got into timbersports in high school. A group of guys convinced our forestry teacher to start a team—I was the first girl to join.
PW: What are the qualities that make a good lumberjill?
SK: I would say determination is the top quality! This is not an easy sport. It takes a lot of time and practice to be able to swing an axe with precision, or saw with the proper technique. Not to mention time put in at the gym to help your endurance or strength. You're not always going to be a natural at every event. Staying determined to better you skills is definitely what will get you far in this sport.
PW: How does a woodsman team work? Are there different roles on the team?
KS: On a collegiate team, there are six members per team, all women or all men; there is also a jack and jill team which is three men and three women. Each team has one captain who leads the team and pushed everyone to be their very best. We all have our own unique skill set that we bring to the table—diversifying will make your team stronger.
PW: We've seen you compete—it's all intensity. What goes through your head when you're swinging an axe?
KS: When I'm up on top of a block [for the underhand chop event], I try to shut the entire world out. I pick one person, like my coach or a teammate I really trust, to help keep an eye on my form and spot anything I might miss. And then I just focus on them. only one person that I pick to help me out who can potentially see or point out something that I can't see (this is usually my coach or a very trusted and experienced member of the team). I trust myself to not hit my feet (although in case of something going wrong, we do wear protective chainmail). My muscle memory kicks in, and and I swing the axe with precision—there are specific lines that I need to follow to chop the block in half in the shortest amount of time. I trust myself to not hit my feet— (although in case of something going wrong, we do wear protective chainmail).
PW: Are there different types of woodsmen competitions?
KS: There are so many different events! A few examples of events I have seen at different meets here in the north: axe throw, pole climb, fly cast, obstacle pole, birling, boom run, minute pulp, hard hit, cookie stack, scoot load, splitting, underhand chop, standing block chop...
Typically, you have each person doing a singles event (six single events total), three teams of two doing doubles events (three doubles events total), two teams of three doing triple events (two triples events total) and everyone competes in the team events (a relay style, which is always cross-cut sawing, bow sawing, log roll, and pulp toss).
PW: What's your favorite woodsman skill?
KS: I'm not the best underhand chopper in the world, and I'm training very hard to improve, but I'm so in love with the adrenaline that I get from swinging a razor-sharp axe and breaking a block in half. I also love the single-buck saw; there's something so satisfying about cutting a 16" to 20" cookie with a saw that is literally taller than I am.
PW: And what would you tell a brand-new beginner about it?
KS: To any beginners out there, I would say don't give up and be patient! This sport takes a lot of hard work. No one is instantly great at it—it takes years to really learn how to read the wood. I learn something new every time I go to a competition. You learn to learn from your mistakes.
PW: What's the biggest lesson woodsman sports have taught you?
KS: Discipline. I never end a practice on a bad note. If I had bad technique on a cookie I just sawed, I do it again until it's good enough. The same thing goes for chopping—I never leave a practice on a bad swing.
PW: What in the woodsman world is next for you?
KS: I plan on staying involved with the world of competitive wood chopping—I'm addicted to it now! I will be going out west, for at least a couple summers, to live out my dream of being a firefighter. But I'll be back for winters to chop and saw, and to help out the woodsman team here! It's something that I never want to let escape my life, because it's my escape from the world!
Want to be more like Kimi? (You should; she knows how to live.) Join us in July, and learn the discipline of a woodsman up at the Paul Smith's Forestry Cabin.