WALPOLE — In an open pole barn on North River Road, one might expect to see farming equipment or livestock. But at Trevor Beaudry’s, it’s filled with axes and saws.
The Walpole native picked one of those axes off the barn floor Tuesday afternoon. Locking eyes with the bullseye on a piece of wood across the room, Beaudry pulled the ax back over his head before launching it forward with a huff. After a few practice throws, it landed right on the mark.
“To throw the ax well,” he said, “you really gotta calm down and focus.”
This is a typical afternoon for Beaudry, 31, who’s preparing for the Stihl Timbersports lumberjack competition’s quarter finals this weekend in Cherry Valley, N.Y.
Though he said he’s always been competitive, he likes the sport because of how it makes him feel.
“Chopping, for me at least, is a stress reliever,” he said. “It has been for years.”
Beaudry grew up on a dairy farm on Wentworth Road and dabbled with amateur lumberjack events, such as at the Cheshire Fair.
It wasn’t until he graduated from Fall Mountain Regional High School in Langdon and went to the University of New Hampshire, where it’s a club sport, that he got serious about lumberjacking.
“That was kind of a stepping stone to doing it professionally,” he said.
Now a safety manager at Hubbard LLC in Walpole, Beaudry spends about an hour per day training for the competition season, which runs roughly from March to October.
Last year’s competitions were canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but in a typical year, he said he participates in about 30 of them. (And, despite the stereotype, Beaudry said flannels actually aren’t the appropriate attire. Tight-fitted clothes are the best bet, so an ax or saw doesn’t get caught.)
The Stihl competition, started in 1985 by the power tool manufacturer, has 40 men and 28 women from across the country participating this year. Usually, the competition is held all in one place with an audience, but because of the pandemic, this year’s is spaced out regionally and will not have crowds.
Beaudry will be competing against 16 men Saturday, and will not know the results until June 26, when all of the quarter finals will be complete.
The national competition is part of the larger international season taking place this year in countries including Australia, the Czech Republic and France. The winner of the U.S. men’s final round will compete against the world’s top lumberjack sports athletes in Munich on Oct. 2.
Female finalists do not go to the Stihl international competition, according to spokesman Stefen Lovelace, but do compete in other international events.
Saturday’s competition in Cherry Valley will have six events, all based on time: hot saw, single buck, springboard chop, standing block chop, stock saw and underhand chop.
The latter — when a person stands on top of a secured wooden log and swings at it with an ax until it breaks in half — is Beaudry’s best, and favorite, skill.
Fifteen seconds is the U.S. record for the event, he said. And though Beaudry couldn’t remember his own record Tuesday, he completed the skill, while simultaneously talking to The Sentinel, in about 30 seconds.
From 2017 to 2019, Beaudry made it to the semi-finals only to be one point shy of qualifying for the finals. He chalked those up to flukes — once the handle of his saw broke; another time the entire piece of wood that was attached to the wall he was sawing fell off, rather than just the slice he was cutting, which ate up his time.
Despite that, he said he isn’t too eager to win.
“If I go and have a good day on Saturday and do fine in all six events, I should be pretty safe to move on to the next round,” he said. “... I’m probably not at the level where I’d be competitive to win, but you never know what’ll happen.”