Timbersports
By Adyn Ogle

Chopping lots of blocks is crucial to success according to the newly-crowned Timbersports New Zealand ladies champion.

The woodchopping season may be over but Mount Maunganui-based, Rotorua Axemans A&P club member Darcell Apelu claimed her latest title after winning the three-discipline championship at last week's Fieldays at Mystery Creek.

The 28-year-old came out on top of the inaugural Stihl Timbersports New Zealand Ladies Championship after competing in the stock saw, single saw and underhand chop events. Otaki's Alma Wallace placed second and in third was Ahaura woodchopper Shannon Hodgetts.

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To compete in the championship woodchoppers had to apply with their best performances over the year and from that, a top eight were selected.

Stihl Timbersports New Zealand Ladies Championship Winner Darcell Apelu, centre, with second-place-getter Alma Wallace, left, and third-place-getter Shannon Hodgetts, right. Photo/ Stihl
Stihl Timbersports New Zealand Ladies Championship Winner Darcell Apelu, centre, with second-place-getter Alma Wallace, left, and third-place-getter Shannon Hodgetts, right. Photo/ Stihl

Apelu, who found the sport as a student at Mount Maunganui College - also discovering her great grandfather competed in the sport in the 1940s, says success in the sport can come down to teaching.

"A lot of it comes down to teaching, if you haven't got that down pat you will struggle. The size of the body doesn't come into it. Just chopping a lots of blocks is good too," Apelu says.

The single saw competition had competitors use a two-metre saw to cut through a log while the stock saw competition required entrants to make two full cuts with a chainsaw in a 100mm zone. The underhand chop included standing on a short log and using an axe on both sides to cut through.

"A lot of us were quite nervous going into the stock saw event, which was first. It is the one that you might not win you a championship, but you can definitely lose it. If you make a mistake, you cannot recover.

Stihl New Zealand managing director Jochen Speer says the event has been at the Fieldays for the past two years, with the ladies championship introduced this year.

Apelu says the event is hopefully a catalyst to growth in the sport.

"The sport has been on the decline in terms of the amount of people for a while. We are hoping the Timbersports starts helps it become more popular."

Her success in the recent competition caps off a great season, which has also included winning the single saw and double saw titles at the Sydney Royal Easter Show this year. Apelu describes the Sydney event as the "Wimbledon" of her sport and won the doubles title with Te Aroha's Sheree Taylor.

The woodchopping season runs from October to April.

Apelu and her husband, Charles Hall, compete all over New Zealand and while most of their practice is done at home, they also belong to the Rotorua Axeman's A&P Club. Her club holds an annual event, with up to 42 woodchoppers, on Auckland Anniversary weekend at the end of January.

"It is an interesting sport and anyone can get into it and it is very family orientated. There is a lot that goes on behind the scenes, you have to get blocks, chop them, rig them up – there is a lot of work and for us it is part of our lifestyle," Apelu says.

The next major focus for Apelu is returning to Sydney next year to defend her titles.