By Steve Bowman, 11/21/2011

David Bolstad Remembered

David Bolstad Remembered Zoom

David Bolstad Remembered


Dave Jewett remembers an interview David Bolstad did with a television station after a STIHL TIMBERSPORTS® competition that not only changed the way he competed, but in a way summed up Bolstad's life.

Bolstad was commenting on being able to master the hot saw in a short period of time. Typically, it can take as much as 10 years for a lumberjack to gain the proper skills needed to compete with a super-charged saw that can rip through a 19-inch log three times in less than 6 seconds.

While others might labor, Bolstad - Mr. Lucas Mill - was setting records in two years. And after Jewett heard that interview, he began to get better in all the lumberjack events in the STIHL TIMBERSPORTS® Series.

The words that stick clearly in Jewett's mind: "You control the bull or the bull is going to control you."

In Jewett's assessment, that is exactly how Bolstad competed, and how he lived.

"He was just so natural, he did things his way and that's the way he wanted it,'' Jewett said.

The New Zealand lumberjack was at the same time much loved and feared, even dreaded for a variety of reasons.

"He was awesome to watch,'' Jewett said. "There were times when he got under my skin and I would be angry at him, but when I would watch him compete I would be cheering for him. He was just so awesome to watch. Him swinging an axe at a log was something to see. The way he conducted himself, it was just incredible."

Words like "awesome" and "incredible" were a consistent part of the descriptions given by a number of lumberjacks in their memories of Bolstad, followed closely by the words "shocked" and "depressed" at his passing.

The 41-year old lumberjack was a major part of the STIHL® TIMBERSPORTS® Series since the late 1990s. He won the championship five times, the world champion twice and set numerous world records in the six chopping and sawing events. He currently holds the world record in the underhand chop set in 1999 of 12.28 seconds.

"We are all in shock,'' STIHL TIMBERSPORTS® competitor Arden Cogar, Jr. said. "He's one of the fittest guys I know. He lived a Spartan lifestyle. I'm in disbelief and I've been in a state of depression since hearing what happened."

Bolstad, always the competitor, had just finished winning an event at the Waiuku Cosmopolitan Axeman Championships in New Zealand. He was walking to his car to stow his axe box when suddenly he dropped the box and fell to the ground.

Within minutes an ambulance was on the scene, but Bolstad was pronounced dead soon after.

While there is a certain amount of danger that comes with big burly lumberjacks swinging axes in every competition, the idea that Bolstad, who many felt was the picture of health and fitness, would die in this fashion humbled many of his competitors.

"It's just not what you would expect,'' Cogar said. "The only thing I can say is it's a big loss for the whole lumberjack community."

The loss will be felt for years to come.

Tommy Sanders, television commentator for the STIHL® TIMBERSPORTS® Series, and Jewett point to the teaching aspects that Bolstad offered to so many.

"If he liked you and you would listen, he could turn you into a world-class chopper,'' Jewett said. "He was that good at teaching."

Sanders said that fellow analyst John Hughes would always refer to Bolstad as "The Professor."

"He trained incessantly,'' Sanders said. "He studied every chop made by every competitor."

Bolstad had a lifetime of chopping knowledge stored in his head. He started chopping at the age of 5, following the footsteps of his father, who was equally adamant about training.

"Bolstad told me that his dad would train so hard, he would chop until he puked, literally,'' Jewett said. "He got that training regime from him.

"I can remember staying with him at his home and training. It was getting dark, I mean dark enough to where I couldn't see, and he would still be chopping. He's the only guy I've ever known who would chop in the dark. He's the only guy who could chop a log perfectly with his eyes closed."

Another thing Jewett recalls from his stay in New Zealand was Bolstad's fascination with Muhammad Ali. Jewett said Bolstad had a variety of video documentaries on the Greatest of All Time.

"He would watch those tapes over and over,'' Jewett said, "which seemed crazy since you would think that folks in New Zealand wouldn't be particularly keyed into those things in American culture.

"But Bolstad loved Ali. He would study him. And as I think about it, they both had that arrogant confidence that carried them through. I bet you wouldn't have to dig very deep to find a lot of similarities in the two."

David was one of the great ones. His contributions to the STIHL TIMBERSPORTS® Series and to Lumberjack Sports worldwide cannot be measured. Talents like his only come around once in a lifetime. We've lost one of our best, and it will be a very long time before his shoes can be filled.