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Basque sports

LOG CHOPPING

The stuff of legend

Log chopping is one of the best-known, most popular Basque sports. The image of the white-clad aizkolari, standing on the log with axe in hand, is also one of the most widely reproduced as a symbol of Basque Sport and of the country itself.

It used to be a question of getting firewood for charcoal burning?

Like most Basque sports, the origin of log chopping is linked to farm work, in this case cutting firewood.

In fact, the Basque forests exploited above all for wood to turn into charcoal, which in tern fuelled the ironworks that made Basque iron famous. While the aizkolaris in today?s competitions have finished with each log when it splits in two, what the old woodcutters needed was medium-sized pieces of wood for charcoal burning.

The competition between aizkolaris is a test not of speed but of stamina. Few events last less than thirty minutes and some of them go on for over an hour. The rules established for the competition, which date from the early 20th century, determined that the wood must be beech, and that the log must measure between 36 and 54 inches around its circumference, the latter being the most common size. In the Basque country the logs are always laid horizontally.

Log chopping competitions generally take place in frontón courts, bull rings and village squares. The top competition is the Urrezko Aizkora (Golden Axe), a league which culminates in the locality of Azpeitia in the province of Gipuzkoa, though it is very common to organise competitions, displays and challenges in this sport on the occasion of public festivities in towns and villages..