J.R. Salzman, an Iraq war veteran, former member of the National Guard, and professional athlete, would be considered by many to be an intense man and a fierce competitor. In December 2006, his vehicle was struck by an Explosively Formed Penetrator in Iraq, and from the blast his left hand was severely damaged, his right arm was severed below the elbow, and he suffered a traumatic brain injury. Although he recovered at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center, he now uses a prosthetic arm and is considered 100% physically disabled.
Yet despite this, he won ten world titles and 14 gold medals in his field between 1998 and 2015. Although built like a rugby player or possibly a pole-vaulter, he is neither involved in track-and-field, nor any other sport that might be considered mainstream. Yet this sport takes enormous balance, control, endurance, and lower-body strength. Still puzzled? Logrolling. Yes, you heard me correctly. The sport, governed by the United States Logrolling Association (USLRA), has been in full-swing for more than fifty years, but started to grow in popularity particularly during the mid-90s. While not nearly as popular as pole-vaulting, logrolling is similar in that it is a unique sub-sport within the larger category of Lumberjack Games.
The most popular ongoing outlet for the event, the Lumberjack World Championships, has been held in Hayward, Wisconsin since 1960. With over $50,000 in prize money available in each category, the event hosts competitors from the US, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand, who compete in different event types based on four main components: sawing, climbing, chopping and logrolling. The competition is also sponsored by some big names: Pepsi; Plum Creek Timber, one of the largest private land-holders in the US; and Stihl, a German company that specializes in saws, and the only major saw company that makes its own saw chains and guide bars.
Logrolling received more national acclaim after it was featured in ESPN's Great Outdoor Games, although the program was cancelled in 2006. The Excellence in Sports Performance Yearly Award (ESPY) had an award for the best Outdoor Sportsman (2002-2005), which J.R. Salzman won in 2005. Another logroller, Tina Bosworth, won it in 2004.
How does one become a professional logroller? As of 2015, there are currently 32 logrolling programs across the country, where one can both learn and master the art. Wisconsin is by far the nation's leader in logrolling programs, as it has 18. Minnesota has has several, as well as Oregon, Alaska, Illinois, Maine, California, and Michigan.
With many amateur tournaments, clear-cut rules laid out by the USLRA, and even an off-shoot category, "Boom-running," Logrolling has a stable base to build on. Even if it will never be as popular as football, track-and-field, or even bowling or poker, it has its own vibe, popularity, and model representatives of the sport, such as J.R. Salzman, that will allow it to exist for decades to come.