December 1, 2014
This picturesque town in northern France is both a destination and launch pad for Key Log Rolling. Epinal is one of La Crosse, Wisconsin’s seven international Sister Cities, and the first among those “sisters” to show interest in our idea of introducing log rolling as an international sport, with the dream of becoming an Olympic sport one day.
I first visited Épinal with a La Crosse delegation nine years ago. Like my hometown, Épinal is situated along a river and has a vibrant logging history, agricultural and commerce heritage. They also happened to have an Olympic-sized pool and a number of outdoor beaches that would be perfect for encouraging more interest and participation in log rolling.
After meeting with the town’s Sports Authority, and confirming their interest in the sport of log rolling, we returned to the States to start preparing a log for transportation – only to stop short when the manufacturing and shipping logistics proved overwhelming. Logs for the sport of log rolling require a certain amount of buoyancy that species of trees common in Europe don’t possess. Shipping a 400-pound Western Red Cedar log to Europe raised a whole new crop of agricultural and shipping concerns. Our idea appeared to be stuck in a logjam.
That’s when the light bulb switched on: develop a portable, synthetic log that could travel easily and help logrolling reach its potential as a sport. It took a few more years to develop the right product, but today the Key Log® is part of hundreds of new programs in summer camps, colleges, and municipal parks and recreation programs. Tens of thousands of kids and adults are discovering the fun of the century-old sport first developed by American lumberjacks. And now we’re bringing the sport to Europe.
Earlier this year we reconnected with the Sister City delegation from Épinal at La Crosse’s Oktoberfest celebration. After experiencing a Key Log Rolling demo at a local hotel pool, the Épinal delegation was excited and ready to recommend their government adopt a log rolling program. A few short weeks later we received word that the program was formally adopted and we were packing our bags for a flight to Épinal.
Our return to Épinal this week is gratifying on so many levels. We’re grateful to be renewing acquaintances made so many years ago, and meeting representatives of Épinal’s five other Sister Cities. Our hope is that, within the year, more Key Logs will hop the pond and set the foundation for organizing European Log Rolling championships within a few years.
We can’t wait to share a few photos from our trip, as well as a few stories here on the blog. Until then, we’d love to read your comments: what country do you think might embrace log rolling next?
"The goal of these tournaments is to grow the sport of log rolling" said Ward.