It's a sporting code that requires strength and discipline, and Darcell Apelu is one of the best.

Despite being one of the oldest heritage sports in New Zealand, less than 15 per cent of our current professional woodchoppers were women.

Mount Maunganui-based Apelu is one of the few female axemen - she has been woodchopping for years.

"I've probably been competing for half of my lifetime. I started when I was 14 and I will be 28 at the end of the year."


Apelu has been a member of the New Zealand Women's Team for much of that time.

Her greatest moment was winning at the annual Sydney Royal Woodchop, the biggest competition in the world.

"I won it in 2011, but since then I've been coming second. I think I have come second five times in a row. I'm glad I'm consistent, but I am always determined to get that first prize ribbon."

Apelu has also taken part in open events - where women and men compete alongside each other.

"I have come close to winning a couple of races. It is good to get that stuff under my belt. It is probably more beneficial for me though, rather than trying to make them look bad. I'm just trying to do my best."

Apelu has been taking a break from the sport after suffering a back injury earlier this year.

But she's been using her time off productively, helping the New Zealand Men's Team prepare for their next competition.

"If you're not going to let the gear run properly then you are just fighting it. It's all about technique, getting everything placed right. There is a science to it, then you can load on power or strength after you get those basics right."


Made with funding from