Log rolling comes to the University

The Northwoods pastime will be part of the University’s summer programs.

by Cody Nelson


When Jaime Medina tried log rolling for the first time Sunday, he was told to have quick feet.

A few seconds later, he ended up in the pool — a common fate for a first-time log roller.

The uniquely northern activity is grabbing a foothold as a recreational sport across the country and is coming to the University of Minnesota this summer.

The Department of Recreational Sports will begin to incorporate log rolling into its summer programs for the first time this year, said Carole McNaughton-Commers, director of Youth and Community Programs at the University.

The department held a log rolling training session last weekend, which Medina, a University Recreation Center employee, said was a challenging cardio workout.

“I knew I was going to have fun,” he said, “but not this much fun.”

Though it’s just getting its footing as a sport at the University and elsewhere, log rolling began in the mid-19th century.

Lumberjacks held log drives to transport their product down U.S. rivers. Toward the end, the frontiersmen discovered it was fun to try balancing on the logs.

This playful activity eventually became competitive, with logging companies even sponsoring competitions.

“It was a way of life that turned into a recreational activity,” said Abby Hoeschler, a life-long log roller and founder of Key Log Rolling.

Though there’s a strong log rolling presence in northern states like Minnesota and Wisconsin, Hoeschler said the sport has been slow to grow.

“There’s a tradition to it and a history to it,” she said, “but not many people know about it.”

Part of the problem with log rolling’s growth, she said, was that the logs used for rolling are big, impractical to ship and can’t be taken out of the U.S.

In response, Hoeschler teamed up with Wenonah Canoe to develop and manufacture synthetic logs that are easier to use, weighing in at 60 pounds.

This year marks the company’s first selling season, Hoeschler said, adding that she hopes the synthetic log will help expand the sport.

Key Log Rolling, who will supply the University’s synthetic logs, will help with the training sessions.

Though log rolling is currently only available through the Summer Youth Programs, McNaughton-Commers said she’d like to expand the sport to more areas.

“It is something that is appealing to all ages,” she said.