The Puhoi Axemen

Ready to chop to the top? Then Puhoi Axemen could be the place for you, and despite the name of the club, that means budding axewomen, too. The club is currently in hibernation for winter, but club secretary John Sanderson is always on the lookout for new members. 

Formed in 1962, the Puhoi Axemen Club, which trains primarily at Kaipara Flats, currently boasts 12 active choppers, who compete in events throughout the country from October onwards.

For the local axemen, the highlight of the season is undoubtedly the annual Puhoi Pub Woodchopping Carnival, held in January.

“It has become very popular and some axemen class it as the best one day chop in New Zealand,” Sanderson says. “It’s the atmosphere, the crowd participation and we have good prize money too, so we can attract some really top class axemen.”

For those who want to take up the sport, the club provides full training which includes trips to competitive events, to give newcomers a taste of the action. Puhoi Axemen compete in a number of categories, including the underhand, in which competitors stand on the wood and chop it through their feet, and the standing event, where a secured block of wood has to be cut through from both sides as quickly as possible. 

Strangely enough, the underhand event is the one new choppers start out on.

“It may not seem so to the spectators, but from a technical point of view, it is much safer because there is less chance to cut yourself when you are standing on the block,” Sanderson explains. “When you are standing beside it the axe can hit you on the front leg, so you need more technique and control of the axe to do that.”

As far as equipment goes, competitors do need specialist equipment with prices ranging from $200 for an entry-level chopper to $800 for a top of the range competitive axe.

At present, the club has no female members, but has had in the past and Sanderson believes it is a sport that can be enjoyed by both men and women. “My daughter used to compete with me in the sawing events and also did some underhand events. But unfortunately, she has moved to university and can’t do it anymore.”

“We certainly encourage women to come along to give it a go – we would welcome anybody with open arms. A lot of guys will come along who have done rugby and sports like that in the past, and just want a sport to keep fit. You can still be competitive, but it’s a little easier on the body – and you can have a few sociable drinks afterwards!”

Junction Mag