Log rolling competitions have a long, storied history in the La Crosse area, dating back to the late 1880's.
Onalaska will continue the tradition when it welcomes one of the biggest log rolling events of the summer to the area on Saturday, July 11, with the annual 3 Rivers Roleo competition.
Competitions will be held in youth and pro divisions, and is a big deal for log rollers of all ages and abilities. Among the competitors are JR Salzman, a nine-time world champion and former ESPY award winner, and Gretchen Green, a 20-year-old from Madison who is the top-ranked athlete in the field.
"The adrenaline rush is the nature of the competition," 3 Rivers Roleo Director Katie Rick said. "Log rolling, you put two people on a log and it's the last one standing."
Rick is a world-ranked competitor and also leads the Onalaska Park and Rec program, one of many in the area. She's also well-versed in the history of the sport.
"They mill the logs. They get them to the river in the winter because of the ice and then when the ice is broken on the river, the loggers would drive them down," Rick said. "But you'd have camps from different areas, and when they got down to a certain area, say they drove as far as La Crosse in the day and they set up and brought it to the sawmills, then a camp from one area might say 'oh I challenge you,' and so the best log rollers from each camp would take on each other."
Rick is currently teaching the next generation of log rollers. Mathias Klingemann started log rolling at the age of six. It's a sport that's in his blood.
"My great grandpa was an actual log roller when they were logging so I guess maybe that's where I get the passion from," he said.
Livi Poppadopoulos has been log rolling for six years. It didn't take long for her to pick up interest.
"I was at the (YMCA) one day and saw some pros training in the pool," she said. "I decided I wanted to try that. There's a lot of mental toughness, obviously. You have to have a lot of core strength and ab strength."
This year the competition will be televised. You can find more information about the event here.