Bob Waibel wins timber contests in New Zealand

Bob Waibel recently returned from New Zealand with a number of first-place sashes from logging competitions.

Waibel and his wife, Mona, headed for New Zealand in January to join the USA Masters Wood chopping team. After about three weeks, they went on to Tasmania to compete in one more contest. Mr. Waibel competed there in 1970 and 1974 with the United States Axemen’s Team. They returned after about a month.

The seven team members were Gus Carlson, Dave Stadler, Waibel, David Moses, Rudy Detmer and a couple from Wisconsin, Rick and Penny Halvorsen. Waibel, with Detmer, competed in the underhand wood chopping events.

Waibel, with his team, won five first-place awards, five second-place awards, one fourth-place award and tied in two events.

The grounds were filled with stacks of peel logs of all sizes that would be chopped before the day ended. The hardwood chopping logs, mostly Radiata Pine and Poplar, ranged from 10 to 14 inches in diameter.

At different events the USA Masters faced off against the New Zealand Veterans as hundreds more of all ages entered contests.

“Mostly, they were excellent at what they did,” Mrs. Waibel said. “One young man, Charlie Hall, at 15 years of age was well on his way to becoming another world champion.”

One contest site, Latrobe, Tasmania, will be the site of the Axemen’s Hall of Fame. The first contest was held there in 1870.

“With the Albany Timber Carnival now gone for good, I may build the Timber Sports Hall of Fame here in Sweet Home in the railroad depot if I can acquire the land to set it on permanently,” Mr. Waibel said.

While in New Zealand, the team would compete one or two days each weekend. During the week, the Waibels would travel to each contest site, where they would be hosted by a New Zealand family.

Mr. Waibel competed in a total of six contests.

They were treated to “extra entertainment” while eating in the Sky Tower in Auckland, much like the Space Needle in Seattle. They watched through a window as three different persons jumped from the tower with bunjee cords.

They stayed with Doug and Pat McCartie in Auckland. Mr. McCartie puts on the largest show in New Zealand and is a veteran of Willamette Valley contests.

Traveling the countryside offered opportunities for the Sweet Home couple to meet the folks they know from years of timber cutting contests.

At one location, they were staying with a new family. When one woman heard about the American family, she asked if it was Bob and Mona Waibel. It turned out that the Waibels had hosted the woman for the Albany Timber Carnival.

Driving through New Zealand offered “some fantastic scenery,” Waibel said. There were palm tree farms, and flowers bloom all the time. A single mountain, Mt. Egmont, offers extraordinary scenes around island. They also found the world’s largest rhododendron in Inglewood. The rhodie is 25 feet tall with a spread of 40 feet.

The Waibels and Melissa Carper of Sweet Home, who is in New Zealand, tried to touch base but were never able to quite catch up with each other.

“I know we were right there close, but we were moving so much,” Mrs. Waibel said.