Surf Europe 100 | The Biggest And Best Surfing Gear Guide For 2018 Has Officially Arrived

Surfers of the world, assemble. For this thing, right here, shall be your new wave-based bible


Our pals over at Surf Europe have only gone and done it, haven’t they? They’ve only gone and bloody well done it. A Surf Europe 100. A Surf Europe 100 that, yes you guessed it, takes a big fat look at the hottest 100 surf products in the world right now.

In their own words, they “stalked, followed, fondled, fingered, tickled, bit and sniffed the very finest surf gear in the whole world, so that you don’t have to.” And then, when they were done with all that there sniffing, fingering, fondling and general silliness… the lads wrote some words about the surf gear. Wrote some words, shot some photos, and made some videos. The results of which, we think you’ll agree, look nice. Very nice. Very nice indeed.

Check Out The Surf Europe 100 2018 Here

If you love surfing, go and have a look at the Surf Europe 100 right now. You won’t regret it. Heck, even if you don’t like surfing (for reasons you’d rather not get into) go and have a look at it all the same. It’s so good that we’re convinced it’ll thaw out even the frostiest of anti-surf hearts. Products aside, we’re very much enjoying the shark cut-out and excellent use of fruit. Top job.


Fans of watermelon will get a kick out of the Surf Europe 100.


*starts humming the Jaws soundtrack*

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The post Surf Europe 100 | The Biggest And Best Surfing Gear Guide For 2018 Has Officially Arrived appeared first on Mpora.

Project Trumpmore Interview | Meet the NGO That Wants To Carve Donald Trump’s Face into a 50-Metre Ice Wall

“The faces on the real Mount Rushmore are 18m tall, so we definitely want to top that…”

project trumpmore donald trump ice wall carve interview Nicolas Preito

A model of what Project Trumpmore may look like in the Arctic Ocean.

Picture the scene.

You’re at the helm of an almighty ship, sailing deep through the ice sheets and freezing blankness of the Arctic Circle. You’ve seen nothing but the infinite ice and murky waters of the freezing landscape for months, and you can’t quite remember the last time you saw the face of anyone with whom you weren’t sharing quarters.

And then it happens.

You see a new face. Or rather, an old face. A face you haven’t seen in a long time. A giant face. An infamous face. A face that looks a little like a potato that’s been left in the shower for too long. A face you recognise all too well.

The rest of the crew join you on the bow. A shiphand drops his beer, and it smashes. A mechanical technician drops his spanner, or whatever it is that mechanical technicians use, and it bounces unnoticed on the deck. The noise of the spanner is drowned out by a PhD student openly weeping, and being consoled on the shoulder of the hearty expedition chef.

In front of them all, is the gargantuan head of US President Donald Trump, carved out high into a 50-metre, 164-foot wall of ice approaching on the horizon, slowly melting into the Arctic Ocean.

This controversial arctic landmark is not something that exists at this moment in time, but as improbable as it may sound, the ambitious “Project Trumpmore” statue is something that newly-formed Finnish NGO Melting Ice are determined to make happen.

We spoke to Nicolas Preito, Chairman of Melting Ice, and the man who wants to commission a 35 metre (115ft) tall ice sculpture of Donald Trump’s face in the arctic region, to ask the obvious question: why?

“The idea of the project is to talk about climate change in general,” he said.

project trumpmore donald trump ice wall carve interview Nicolas Preito

A comparison by scale of just how large this Donald Trump head would be.

“Our idea is that climate change is such a complex issue that it’s a difficult one to grasp. Our intent is to create a conversation starter through the monument. Every once in a while you come up with good ideas and now we’ve got one. After the US President Mr. Donald Trump’s decision to not sign the Paris Agreement, to pull back from it, and then his willingness to be on Mount Rushmore, for us it was just one plus one and it equalled this.

“We are looking for an ice wall which would be in-land but facing the coast obviously, and that would be around 50 metres high. The minimum we’d be looking at would be 30 metres. On the real Mount Rushmore the faces of the Presidents are 18m tall so we definitely want to top that. We already did a scale model of it which was three metres high in Helsinki which was fun, but we’ve got to think big to make this happen.”

project trumpmore donald trump ice wall carve interview Nicolas Preito

The three-metre ice Trump that Project Trumpmore built in Helsinki. Photo: Iltalehti /

Indeed, President Trump has joked about being added to the Mount Rushmore monument several times in the past few years, and is a renowned climate change denier.

Nicolas continued: “We came up with a good idea and we weren’t keen with just letting it go. There are a lot of people who are like-minded to us. So probably if we think this is a good idea a lot of other people will be too.”

The idea, as the Project Trumpmore website outlines, is to commission an 115-foot tall ice sculpture of Donald Trump’s face in the arctic region, in order for it to melt, to demonstrate that climate change is happening.

Would this really work as a demonstration of climate change?

“I don’t think that climate change per se is something that we can prove with melting ice,” says Nicolas.

“I think it will be a conversation starter and a symbolic gesture. We are in a position and time where climate change is such a complex issue that we need our best minds on it and all of us need to be thinking about what we can do about it.

“The minimum we’d be looking at would be 30 metres. On the real Mount Rushmore the faces of the Presidents are 18m tall so we definitely want to top that…”

“Our hope is that we will talk about climate change in a much broader way once we get the project started. Even though we are talking about the Paris Agreement, that as well is not an agreement without its holes. We need to do more in so many ways.”

For a project as ambitious as this though, the logistics are always going to be the main challenge. Project Trumpmore admit they will need to raise around €400,000 (£350,500) to complete the project as they have it set out in their minds.

“That would be with all bells and whistles,” says Nicolas. “We are now doing calculations on what’s the lowest we can do it with and where else we could get money.

“We are talking about crowdfunding. In Finland for a new NGO to do a crowdfunding campaign is not so clear cut. You need a permit from the police and that takes a long time. We are now trying to partner up with some NGOs in countries where we could do a crowdfunding proposition.

“We have a very detailed plan on how to do it and what kind of things to incorporate. We have an ice sculptor who would be the head engineer or head of construction. He’s done big ice projects before. And then we have to talk about where it’s going to be. There are four possible spots but one, which is our main goal, would be the arctic ice cap in Greenland. It can’t be an iceberg because that’s too unstable.

“We have ideas already of the talking points we want to bring up, not only with the sculpture, but also with a documentary project we are talking about and a hunk of the money could come from the documentary, from a TV channel. We want not only to build the ice sculpture but to do this as a whole project that actually initiates conversation.”

I suggest that given his ego, and his attitude towards climate change, there is a strong chance that Donald Trump would love Nicolas’ project. He laughs.

“Yeah, that would be hilarious. I actually directed my first tweet about it to Mr. President. I haven’t got a reply yet, so maybe soon. I’m not sure.

“I posted a video and asked him ‘hey, we have this project and you’re not that keen on climate change, so maybe you’d like to partner up?’ but still no reply. Fingers crossed. Let’s hope for the best. I understand he has a lot of lawyers with money lying around in different bags or different cheque accounts – so maybe he has some money he can lend us!”

Whether the project happens or not remains to be seen, but given that the aim of Project Trumpmore is ultimately to act as a conversation starter, it’s fair to say Nicolas and his team have already seen some success.

After all, they’ve certainly got people talking.

For the latest on Project Trumpmore, follow the campaign on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.

For more from this month’s Green Issue, click here

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The post Project Trumpmore Interview | Meet the NGO That Wants To Carve Donald Trump’s Face into a 50-Metre Ice Wall appeared first on Mpora.

Discovering Dalsland | In Search of Serenity in Sweden’s Land of 1000 Lakes

“There is nothing alien about slow travel and simple living…”


Within a couple of hours of arriving in Dalsland – Sweden’s ‘Lake District’ – I learned a profound lesson. After a savagely early alarm call, two flights and a two hour drive from Gothenburg, I was hoping for the luxury of a hotel room before heading into the wilderness the following day.

I hadn’t read my itinerary properly.

As a travel writer – even a grandiosely self-titled ‘adventure travel’ writer – I’d come to expect a certain cosseting from my hosts. So arriving at Silverlake outfitting company as the late-afternoon was already beginning to darken, I was surprised – nay, appalled – to learn there was to be no gentle transition into lakeside life.

“Outdoor life is not a different thing to life in Sweden”

Within 30 minutes of our bleary-eyed arrival we’d loaded canoes onto a trailer, hastily changed clothes in the chilly car park, and were being driven to our first put-in from where we – filmmaker Benn Berkeley and I – would paddle to our first camp. The lake was Svärdlång – Long Sword in Swedish – which runs almost due north for 14 kilometres from near the small town of Bengtsfors.

canoe sweden dalsland 4

Photo: Daniel Wildey

Once the campfire was lit I would realise how unnecessary the imagined hotel was, but during the unexpected hustle of getting out there, I was flustered. I’ve become so used to preparing myself to go outdoors, getting a good nights’ sleep, using a kind of psychological bridge between normal life and outdoor life, that the sudden collapse of that bridge left me daunted.

Here’s the lesson; that bridge doesn’t exist in Sweden. Outdoor life is not a different thing to life. Being outdoors is such an integral part of Swedish culture that perhaps that bridge would seem more like a barrier.

My trepidation was heightened by the fact that this was my first time canoeing. We only had a few hundred yards to paddle into the darkening lake, but almost immediately I realised my canoe was a tool of ancient utility rather than a sporting challenge to be mastered, and as such could be handled by anyone with the slightest sense of balance. I would reach camp without a soaking.

‘Camp’ turned out to be an understatement. In the world of camping, having the most meagre of needs catered for is tantamount to luxury. We landed our canoes and pulled them (unnecessarily far – we were still learning) out of the water. Close by was a substantial pile of well-seasoned firewood. Beyond that a firepit – an old car wheel rim encased in concrete (it was more aesthetic than it sounds). And finally the ‘hut’ we had been promised.

canoe sweden dalsland 15

Photo: Daniel Wildey

These structures are dotted around the shoreline throughout the whole region, and are free to use for anyone with a Nature Conservation Card (around €13 per person) and all the sites are similarly equipped, including with masses of firewood. However, they cannot be booked, and will often be found to be occupied, so we’d brought a tent in case. But taking this trip in late-September would prove to be a masterstroke of planning and we would only encounter three other humans over the next few days – none of them, crucially, in the campsites.

The huts are simply raised wooden platforms with three walls and a roof – one long side open to the firepit. Ordinarily the lack of one wall could be seen as a shortcoming in a building, but I’d already realised I had no desire to sleep indoors. In recent years I’ve come to prefer a bivvy bag to a tent, and to breathe the fresh night air as it blows over me. With leaden skies above us, this seemed the perfect compromise.

After a little campcraft, a rotisserie chicken from an ill-thought-out supermarket-sweep in Bengtsfors and some fairly extensive repacking to quieten my fussy mind, we were left with nothing to do but admire the scene; the waters of Long Sword gurgling nearby, the fire crackling and the autumn colours of the trees being swallowed by the deepening darkness. If I’d needed a restful evening before embarking upon our paddling, no hotel could have come close.

The morning brought no discernible increase in urgency. Our contact at Silverlake had suggested a route that would take us beyond the 14km of Long Sword, via a short portage, and east to a different rendezvous point, at which he would pick us up. The soporific effect of gentle paddling had us hypnotised quickly, and it took no time at all to abandon that plan in favour of a slow exploration of the paradise we already occupied. We had nothing at all to do, and no reason to go elsewhere to do it. This lake could be our whole world and that would be enough.

Keeping to a straight line became my only concern, mastering the ‘J Stroke’ the extent of my to-do list. (To avoid constantly switching sides with the paddle it is necessary to add a sort of flick to the end of a normal stroke – in effect to describe a ‘J’ in the water.)

Svärdlång was an ideal proving-ground for the new canoeist; narrow enough not to intimidate, long enough to offer a journey, and deserted enough to feel intrepid and self-sufficient. With a grey sky hanging low, the distant length of the lake faded to a misty blur and the colours of autumn were muted, along with the noise of the outside world, which was muffled by the blanket of cloud. We found various inlets en route to nowhere in particular, which provided an explorer’s adventure in the form of variety – a floating carpet of green lily pads, or a thicket of tall reeds with a winding route among them.

canoe sweden dalsland 8

Photo: Daniel Wildey

Without intending to we covered the majority of the 14km surprisingly quickly and with minimal effort, and found another campsite quite early. It was so picturesque we decided to pitch-up and perhaps take the boats out again before dark. Campcraft had become as important to the trip as the paddling, both have their rhythms and we wanted time with wood and land as much as with water.

I’d camped in Sweden before and noticed that many people take an axe, so packed my Gransfors Bruk small forest axe, a small folding saw and of course a good fixed-blade knife. They proved invaluable – particularly as the boats, rather than our backs, were carrying the load. It’s a sign of Swedish priorities, that the camps are stocked with firewood. But it’s also a sign of how differently the Swedes relate to the outdoors; it’s assumed that campers will have the means to process the 8 foot logs, and without at least one of these tools, we’d have been huddled around a paltry stove.

canoe sweden dalsland 10

Photo: Daniel Wildey

So the portioning and splitting of wood became part of a soothing routine, and when the rain came – short-lived but heavy – the fire was able to resist it. We were kept entertained by the flora and fauna; spotting frogs and mushroom hunting (the Woolly Milkcap being a stunning highlight), and with very quick dips in the freezing cold water.

The third night was our last, and time had stood still to this point. But it also seemed to stretch back immeasurably. I’d been absorbed by this place so quickly and completely that I was fearful of the wrench of leaving. So I decided to test just how comfortable I was by paddling out to the middle of the lake in the pitch black of night.

canoe sweden dalsland 16

Photo: Daniel Wildey

The cloud cover was heavy, and there was zero light pollution, so when I laid back in the canoe and switched off my headtorch I was in complete sensory deprivation. With no visible or audible frame of reference the gentle rocking of the boat became imperceptible. But rather than being disorientated, I knew exactly where I was.

There is nothing alien about slow travel and simple living. That psychological transition I was struggling with is an effect of a disconnection from nature, and of seeing the outdoors as a hobby, a weekend activity, something we need different clothes for, and a different mindset. Ditch the prevaricating, the excuses, the separation, and make outside part of life. And if you get the chance, learn to do it in Sweden; it’s what they do best.

Do It Yourself


The location of Bengtsfors in Dalsland – Sweden’s ‘Lake District’

For more information head to the official tourist board websites of Visit Sweden and Vast Sverige.

Big thanks to Fjällräven who helped outfit Daniel and Benn for the trip and to Silverlake Camp & Canoe for the equipment.

For more from this month’s Green Issue, click here

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Talking Rubbish | We Try Out ‘Plogging’, the Swedish Fitness Craze Sweeping UK Streets

Eco-friendly plogging is a combination of jogging and the Swedish ‘plocka’, meaning ‘to pick’…

plogging jogging litter picking edinburgh mpora 5

It’s a sunny Tuesday night in Edinburgh, which is a rarity for early Spring. It may surprise you to learn that Scotland is not actually a nation known for its exotic tendencies.

The Meadows, the go-to spot for a sun-soaked evening in the Scottish capital, are packed with slackliners, guitar players and the city’s finest not-so-discreetly smoking marijuana. The usual group of mountain bikers are heading off on their Tuesday ride-out in the Pentland Hills. Others are flocking to beer gardens to watch Roma take on Liverpool in the first leg of the Champions League semi-final – a match being billed as one of the most exciting of the football season, and a game which will eventually end 5-2.

We, on the other hand, are going ‘plogging’, a statement which almost certainly requires further explanation.

Plogging is a portmanteau made from combining the words ‘jogging’ and the Swedish ‘plocka’, which means “to pick”. Basically, it’s a combination of jogging and litter picking, and contrary to how that may sound, it has nothing to do with law-enforced community service.

Plogging is the latest Scandinavian craze to make its way to the UK, and in Edinburgh, Swedish 43-year-old eco-warrior Anna Christopherson runs the only plogging club in the city.


Anna in the Swedish Akva bar in Edinburgh, which runs a bottle return scheme. Photo: Anna Christopherson

“Someone tagged me on Facebook asking if I had heard about it about a year and a half ago,” she tells me. “I hadn’t, but I said to them that we should do it tomorrow.

“We have a running club which has been going for about 10 years and they’re always up for anything. They said yeah, of course.”

The club is in almost every way your regular running club. They meet each Tuesday at 7pm for a run outside Joseph Pearce’s, one of the bars Anna runs in the city. Anna’s bars run a bottle deposit system, where if you bring in an empty plastic bottle you can either get the bottle refilled with water for free or trade in up to five for 10p off a coffee per bottle.

“When you actually start looking for it, it’s horrendous…”

“We’ve been pushing for the bottle system to go ahead in Scotland and just between our bars I think we’ve got 1000 signatures,” Anna says.

Before leaving for the meet, I had tentatively text Anna to ask if I should bring anything, “i.e. a bin bag?”. Anna responded that she’d bring the bags, but to bring gloves along if possible.

This may seem like a simple request, but it spirals into an adventure of its own after three seperate express supermarket chains fail to serve up the obvious, lightweight plastic gloves.

In a panic, and losing all sense, I end up buying a pair of bright yellow “heavy duty” kitchen gloves, then realise Anna may have meant that she actually wanted me to bring gloves for the both of us, and before I know it I’m having an existential crisis.

What if I turn up to the meet in Inverleith Park, on the posher, north side of the city, wearing heavy duty kitchen gloves, looking like Roger Bannister dressed for a Cillit Bang advert, and become the butt of a new joke, as would be expected if you turned up to most new running clubs wearing bright yellow kitchenware? Oh dear.


Anna plogging on the streets of Edinburgh. Photo: Anna Christopherson

I cave and text Anna asking for glove recommendations. She saves the day by saying she’ll bring two pairs, and on arrival I’m relieved to see they are indeed standard running gloves. Given the disposable nature of plastic gloves, I probably should’ve guessed this in advance.

Anna hands me a bag and we get on our way.

Inverleith Park is, as aforementioned, in a well off area of the city. It’s just a stone’s throw from Fettes College, who can list the likes of Tony Blair and Tilda Swinton in their alumni. It’s not so surprising then that at first glance the park already appears to be fairly spotless.

“At least they’ve got bins here,” says Anna, “but there’s litter everywhere, and it’s getting worse. When you actually start looking for it, it’s horrendous.”

plogging jogging litter picking edinburgh mpora 6

The view over Inverleith Pond on Park Terrace in Edinburgh’s new town.

She’s right, too. Even in the Pentland Hills, the 100km hill range on the edge of the city, I often come across plastic bottles. With no bins around, I normally stick them in my bag as I go, but this seems a far more alien concept in cities for some reason. Perhaps because of the sheer scale of the issue in urban environments.

Littering is an issue close to the bone of the Scottish outdoors scene – especially after the controversial wild camping ban put in place by Loch Lomond and the Trossachs national park in 2017 which forbid camping on the west shore of the famous loch.

“On Earth Day we ran a total of 10km for two hours and picked up a total of 37kg of litter”

The national park cited antisocial behaviour and littering as their reasoning for the by-law, and while the parks faced a backlash from those claiming they were threatening Scotland’s forward thinking approach to wild camping and the great outdoors, the one thing they couldn’t argue with was the littering taking place in these spots.

On my way to Inverleith Park, with litter-picking in my head, I start spotting it everywhere. Crisp packets in hedges, bottles and bags at bus stops. The overflow from communal bins seems to be the worst. I’ve got a heavy head of guilt already over a crushed Vimto can I stepped over just a few strides outside my flat.

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An unfortunately common sight across the UK.

We start jogging around the perimeter of the park, and immediately it becomes clear that the edges of any building or fence seem to be the resting place of lost litter, partly due to the wind and, of course, largely due to human laziness.

“If everyone just stopped throwing things away and lids were closed on bins then loads would change,” says Anna. “It’s the takeaway culture.”

Indeed, 33 million plastic bottles are bought in the UK every day, and up to 2.5 billion paper coffee cups are thrown away in the UK each year. Most people assume the cups are recycled but in reality only one in 400 cups actually are, because it’s normally too challenging to remove the plastic coating inside the cup in order to recycle the cardboard.

plogging jogging litter picking edinburgh mpora 5 featured image 2

Takeaway coffee cups are one of the most common pick ups while we’re plogging.

In March 2018, Starbucks pledged $10m (£7m) to producing a fully recyclable and compostable coffee cup within three years, and while that would undoubtedly be a start, you have to wonder how much even that would do.

“Even with recyclable coffee cups,” Anna points out, as we pick some off the ground outside a playpark, “if you don’t group them with compostables, with food waste, there is no point. You have to recycle them with food waste.”

Along the back of the pavillion in the park our jogging ends up coming near enough to a halt.

“Some days we only do plastic bottles, because as you can see, sometimes it doesn’t leave much running,” says Anna, before going on to tell me about one of the groups more recent large-scale plogs, for Earth Day on 22 April.

plogging jogging litter picking edinburgh mpora 4

Picking up litter, thanks to plogging, is something that is becoming increasingly common for outdoor activists.

“We ran a total of 10km for two hours and picked up a total of 37kg of litter,” she says. “We did things a little differently too – we split into teams for landfill and recycling.”

The recycling team won, so to speak, gathering an equal measures concerning and impressive 25kg of discarded litter which they then recycled.

“After that we were tired,” she says. “Running for two hours is one thing, but this… [going down to pick litter and back up again as you go] it’s tiring, but it’s brilliant exercise.

“You can see how quickly the bag fills up?”

Within 15 minutes of running we’ve already had to empty our bags into bins twice. It becomes a competition to see who can spot and collect the most litter.

“If everyone just stopped throwing things away and lids were closed on bins then loads would change. It’s the takeaway culture”

Most common are the chocolate wrappers and bottles, but all sorts pop up, including two condom wrappers and even a collection of untouched oranges. We don’t know what you’re up to in the dark of night, Inverleith Park, but we want no part of it.

I even come across the contents of one of those condom wrappers at one point, but I don’t have the heart or stomach to pick it up, especially wearing borrowed gloves.

With the rise of the keep-cup across the UK, and campaigns against plastic straws rising, I ask Anna if she does believe that every little helps, and that it’s all making a difference.

She says: “I think it is [a start] but at the same time there are so many people who aren’t ignoring, but who just aren’t aware of it all yet.

“I’m talking about it every single day, to everyone. There are so many one-use items that are just waste, and you have to remember everything just ends up in a massive pile.”

plogging jogging litter picking edinburgh mpora

It is, unfortunately, not hard to find a bin that looks like this.

I remark again about how much rubbish you start to notice when you actively looking for it, and Anna jokes: “now you will never not notice!”

We end the day meeting up with the rest of the running group, probably the only other people in the city who know the definition of plogging, and head out past Inverleith’s scenic pond to one final climb where I forget about the litter and focus on my lung capacity.

Whatever your thoughts on plogging, it’s certainly a workout, and Anna’s not wrong, the ideology and the awareness of the litter does stay with you.

As I make my way home, I research the facts – over 150 plastic bottles litter each mile of UK beaches. Approximately 5000 items of marine plastic pollution have been found per mile of beach, and since 1950, we’ve produced more than 8.3 billion metric tonnes of plastics, enough to cover the UK ankle-deep, ten times over.

And as I think about all that, I pass the same crushed Vimto can I walked over at the start of the day. I duly bend over, pick it up and put it in the bin. This whole plogging idea might not be so crazy after all.

For more from this month’s Green Issue, click here

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The post Talking Rubbish | We Try Out ‘Plogging’, the Swedish Fitness Craze Sweeping UK Streets appeared first on Mpora.

STIHL Timbersports | We Tried Out Competitive Wood-Chopping With the Leicester Tigers

The Timbersports World Championships come to Liverpool this October…


“Well I’ll tell you what, I’m definitely going to have to work on my fitness. It’s a different kind of fitness. Watching it on TV is definitely a lot different than actually doing it in real life.”

The man behind the words is Leicester Tigers hooker Tatafu Polata-Nau. Tatafu has been capped 82 times for the Australian international rugby union team over the past 13 years. He’s speaking to us, however, at a STIHL TIMBERSPORTS® training camp, moments after relieving a large piece of wood of half its weight with a razor-sharp axe.

“The dedication that’s required to be a top athlete now is immense”

If you’re unfamiliar with STIHL TIMBERSPORTS®, it’s basically professional, competitive woodchopping, competed at the highest level between some of the most ferocious, physically-fit athletes in the world.

Competitors go head to head in a race to make their way through a piece of wood in a variety of disciplines, using tools ranging from two-metre saws to axes and chainsaws.

Photo: Matt Tween

Team GB STIHL Timbersports star Glen Penlington in action. Photo: STIHL Timbersports

If the image of a 251lbs Aussie rugby player standing on top of a log of wood, frantically smashing a racing axe between his feet sounds rather intense, that’s because it is.

Thankfully, the appropriate safety measures are all there. Tatafu is wearing aluminium foot and leg guards which as well as doubling up as the lower half of a Robocop costume, are protecting his feet and shins should his aim falter.

Tatafu Polata-Nau in action with the axe. Photo: Matt Tween

Tatafu Polata-Nau in action with the axe. Photo: Matt Tween

More important yet are the people surrounding him. As well as his fellow Leicester Tigers, Greg Bateman, Valentino Mapapalangi and Chris Baumann, on the floor is Spike Milton, the Global Sports Director for STIHL TIMBERSPORTS® and a former British Champion of 10 years.

Along with Spike are fellow British wood-chopping legends Andrew “Taff” Evans and Rob Owens, and current Team GB number three, Glen Penlington. They’re here to run the camp. And they’re running the camp to promote the upcoming STIHL TIMBERSPORTS® World Championships – the biggest event on the woodchopping calendar – which will take place at the Echo Arena in Liverpool on Friday the 19th and Saturday the 20th of October 2018.

The World Championships will see the best choppers in the world, from New Zealand, Australia, Canada and more, descend on Liverpool to try and beat each other to the chop.

Stihl Timbersports British Championship Single Buck Glen Penlington Photo: Limex Images/Andreas Schaad

Glen Penlington in action at the British STIHL Timbersports championships. Photo: Limex Images/Andreas Schaad

Friday’s event will be the team relay, where national teams of four take on the disciplines of the Stock Saw, Underhand Chop, Single Buck and Standing Block Chop in a relay format.

The Stock Saw involves taking off a couple of cookies with a STIHL chainsaw. The Underhand Chop is what we’ve just been watching Tatafu take on. The Single Buck involves taking a circle of wood off a log with a two-metre cross-cut saw, and the Standing Block is exactly what it says on the tin. The last man on each team sets about an upright block of wood standing in front of them with a racing axe.

Whichever team makes it through all four disciplines first wins.


Taff talks the crew through the Single Buck.

The individual event the next day sees the world’s top 12 athletes take on each of these disciplines, and two more, by themselves. If the STIHL TIMBERSPORTS®’ Champions Trophy last year in Hamburg was anything to go by, explosive is too weak a word.

“One of the oldest industries in the world is cutting down timber and I think all human beings have a natural affinity with wood,” Spike Milton tells us.

“The great thing about STIHL TIMBERSPORTS® is that it’s a real extreme sport. We’re using chainsaws, hot saws, sharp axes, racing cross cuts, and the athlete has changed now too. It’s more of a professional athlete.

The Leicester Tigers getting their hands on the wood. Photo: Matt Tween

The Leicester Tigers getting their hands on the wood. Photo: Matt Tween

“To be an all-rounder you have to train hard, have great mechanics and a great attitude. The dedication that’s required to be a top athlete now is immense.

“For anyone who hasn’t experienced Timbersports, to have it in Liverpool, in the Echo Arena… for those who have never seen it before it will blow your mind. I’m expecting some world records.”

For reference, it took us an exhausting three minutes to get a circle of wood cut off the block in the Single Buck. The best of the day from our training camp was closer to the two minute mark. The world record is nine seconds.

It took two Leicester Tigers approximately five or so minutes to get through one block of wood in the Underhand Chop. The world record is just over 12 seconds.


The break of the log in the Underhand Chop. Photo: Matt Tween.

Watching Glen Penlington in action puts the task at hand into perspective.

The technique and strength is clear to see as Glen powers through demonstration logs in about a quarter of a minute, talking us through them as he goes, before we try our best to get to grips with the axing. When we do complete the Underhand Chop, a couple of popped blisters are our reward.

“When I was a few years old my dad started wood chopping so I sort of grew up with it from then,” Glen laughs.

Glen Penlington in action. Photo: Matt Tween

Glen Penlington in action. Photo: Matt Tween

“Then when I was 18 I went over to a competition in Germany and I was lucky enough to win over there. Since then I’ve managed to get into the British team for STIHL TIMBERSPORTS® and work my way up.

“When you tell people about the sport they normally don’t know what it is but I think it’s one of those sports that sounds good and looks even better.”

Glen is set to compete in the team relay event at the World Championships, but is hoping he can go one better and earn selection for the individual event on the Saturday as well.

“The home crowd advantage is going to be massive”

“It’s going to be great,” he says. “It’s really going to promote the sport in this country. For myself, hopefully I can find myself still in the British team and then win that British title and be the individual representative. The home crowd advantage is going to be massive.”

After attempting just the Single Buck and Underhand Chop in the training camp we can only imagine the sheer determination, energy and intensity of performance needed to complete six of these disciplines in one sitting.

The Underhand Chop left our hands recovering for days, the Single Buck near-enough tore our lungs out, but perhaps the main redeeming factor was the fact that the Leicester Tigers found it just as challenging. Well. Maybe not just as challenging, but you get the idea.

The athletes from Europe, Oceania and North America that come to compete in the Echo Arena in October will be exactly that – top level athletes, competing in a showcase that requires an incredibly unique and specific set of skills.

And because of that, what happens in Liverpool on the 19th and 20th of October will be quite unlike any other sporting event that will take place in the UK for quite some time.

For more information or to buy tickets for the World Championships, click here

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