Passed down through three generations, logger sports is a family affair for the Boykos.
Port Alberni’s Mike Boyko and his 16-year-old son Kenji are squeezing in some final days of practicing on their homemade log rolling equipment in their backyard before Sunday’s logger sports competition at the Fall Fair.
Mike is a seven-time logger sports Canadian champion who has competed and demonstrated around the world for 30 plus years. He learned the sport from his logger father, Al Boyko, and has now passed it on to his son, Kenji, who is making a name for himself at competitions around the province.
Already this summer, Kenji has competed in two logger sport competitions. His area of expertise is log birling (log rolling) but he also dabbles in axe throwing and various other logger sports.
“The first competition was in Squamish, that was a pretty big one,” Kenji said. “I did about five rolls against five different people and overall I got third. There’s not many kids my age in the [men’s open class], I’m the youngest.”
Log birling sets up two competitors on a log 16 to 17 inches in diameter on the water. Each round is timed and if the competitors are unable to knock their component off the log, another round is added, with the log reducing in size.
“I’m pretty light, I just have to stay up there and be like a fly because [competitors] do lots of stuff to try to get me off,” Kenji said.
His second competition of the summer was in Campbell River, where Kenji competed, and beat, his dad for the first time. Placing second overall in log rolling in the men’s open class.
“It was the best two out of three,” Mike said. “So I beat [Kenji] the first match…and he came back and beat me, so we’re tied, and then he got me in the third.”
Kenji began competing when he was 10 years old, but said he was much younger when he learned the sport from his dad.
“I started log rolling, that was my first event,” Kenji said. “It’s really exciting you get to verse different people.”
Logger sports have been around for decades, beginning as a hobby for loggers and eventually evolving into world-wide competitions.
“On the Island, in the 70s, it was huge with every little town,” Mike said. “There was probably 25 shows in B.C. alone, at least. Now it’s died out, same as forestry has died out.”
Mike, who’s a logger himself, said people tend to think it’s predominantly loggers who compete in the events.
“Everyone thinks you’ve got to be a logger to be in logger sports, but you’ve got business men, all kinds of different careers,” Mike said.
Mike added that the sports have become more popular among women, which has been a rejuvenation for a somewhat dying sport.
“It’s really great for the sport,” Mike said about women competitors. “And they’re doing so great. My sister is doing the wood cutting now.”
Now semi-retired, Mike said he will still compete at this year’s Fall Fair event, along with his son, his sister and her children.
“I’m kind of at the stage now where everybody’s beating me, but I still enjoy it,” he said. “I don’t have that fire that I used to have for the competition where I used to train like a mad man.”
To catch the Boykos at this year’s logger sports competition, head to the Alberni District Fall Fair grounds on Sunday, Sept. 10.