The story of Key Log Rolling began in 1969 when twelve-year old Judy Scheer signed up for log rolling classes at Lumberjack Bowl in Hayward, Wisconsin. Hayward was a turn-of-the-century lumber town and the host of the World Log Rolling Championships. Judy was immediately hooked on the challenging sport, and spent her summers perfecting the foot work. She then began to teach others.
In 1972, eighteen-year old Jay Hoeschler arrived in the tourist town to work as a tennis pro at a nearby resort. Jay was also an athlete and felt that log rolling would be easy to learn. He quickly learned that it was as easy as falling off a log. In the meantime, he also fell for Judy and was instrumental in coaching her to the first of seven world log rolling titles in 1973.
After college in Boulder, Colorado, the two married and settled down to start a real estate development business and raise a family in La Crosse, Wisconsin. Judy convinced the local YMCA-YWCA to allow her to put a lathe-turned 500-pound cedar log in the Y pool to teach others to roll including her four children: Katie, Elizabeth, Abby, and William (all who followed in her very fast foot steps as they competed in log rolling). The Y was an incubator for Judy's goal of developing a teaching model for aquatic facilities. She proved that log rolling lessons could safely take place in a small corner of the pool, right alongside other aquatic classes. And she quickly realized that the sport needed a new traction surface to replace traditional spiked shoes which were not welcomed in the pools. After a series of trials, Judy discovered a water-shedding carpet made from the Nobel-prize winning fiber, Olefin. The carpet provided excellent traction with rubber-soled shoes and her innovation breathed new life into the sport. But still, something was holding the sport back.
In 2005, the Hoeschlers were working to start the first European log rolling program, in conjunction with a Sister-City International cultural exchange program. All systems were "go" and the only thing holding the exchange back was the log. Europe didn't have the required species of wood, and shipping costs and agricultural restrictions prohibited transporting five-hundred pound cedar logs across the ocean. Born partly out of frustration, the Hoeschlers had a eureka moment: log rolling would never grow as a sport until it had a lightweight, portable, synthetic product. The idea for the Key Log was born but it would take five years, and the right person, to get the idea off the ground.
That person came in the form of the Hoeschler's daughter, Abby. She had just graduated from college with a degree in art history and had a wealth of enthusiasm and experience in the sport. She was a top log rolling competitor but, more importantly, she had shown her mother's passion for teaching and starting programs. Combined with her father's strength in managing a to-do list, she was ready-made for the job; art history would have to wait. She set up shop in Minneapolis (where better than the urban center of the land of 10,000 lakes?!) and began the task of finding engineers, manufacturers, and marketers. A serendipitous introduction on a cross-country ski trail led her to two senior engineering students who were enrolled at the only composite undergrad program in the nation, at the University of Minnesota, Winona She hired them to "do the math" and they proceeded to calculate the possibilities. And although their mathematical chicken scratch on a yellow legal pad was quite impressive, it was the actual launch of their first hand-built prototype log that had everyone jumping for joy.
Bringing an invention to market takes time, problem-solving, and perseverance. The Key Log has been no different. Now that it's finally ready for prime time, there is excitement to see how the sport will grow. Odds are good that the 'favorite sport of the American lumberjack' just might become a favorite sport of people around the world.
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