Chopping to the top
CROMWELL axeman Brad Pako reckons if he had a dollar for every time someone asked him to chop them a load of firewood, he’d be a rich boy.
But actually, it’s not a silly idea to get the 14-year-old to chop you a load of wood — he’s proving to be one of the best young axemen in the country after some top results in recent competitions.
The youngster rates his second place in one of the biggest competitions in the South Island — the Darcy Seymour Memorial chop, in Ikamatua on the West Coast in March — as one of his top two highlights of his short career.
Brad was the only junior axeman to make the final.
The other highlight was taking out four firsts at last month’s Wakefield King of the Mountain Chops, in Nelson.
It’s hard to believe the youngster has only being wood chopping for 18 months — he got interested in the sport when he was living in Karamea, on the West Coast, and saw it being demonstrated.
He told his dad he wanted to give it a go, and within days he was being trained up by veteran axeman Bill Simpson.
Two months later, Brad competed in his first competition, taking home two third placings — he was only 12 at the time.
‘‘I knew I was going pretty good, so I thought I’d continue with it,’’ he said.
And he’s not the only one who thinks he’s going ‘‘pretty good’’ at the sport.
When he can, he spends time training with world champion axeman Adam Lowe, in Hokitika, who’s already told him he’s got natural talent and the ability to go far in the sport.
Brad said he had learnt a lot from the world champion, and everyone in the sport had taken him under their wing.
His specialty event is underhand chopping, which means he’s standing on the block while he chops.
It might sound dangerous, but Brad, who’s nearly 2m tall and weighs 104kg, said he hadn’t come close to injuring himself on the block yet — in fact the only injury he’s had was when he sliced his finger while cleaning his axe.
He’s the first to admit he initially thought woodchopping was just about smashing the wood as quickly as you could, but has since learned there’s a lot of skill and technique involved in the sport, including learning to chop different types of wood.
He doesn’t have a favourite type of wood, but says he can definitely notice the difference between different blocks of wood.
‘‘But at the end of the day, it’s just wood, you’ve still got to chop it off.’’
His short-term goal is to make the New Zealand under21 team.
It might sound unrealistic considering he’s only 14, but Brad thinks he’s got a good chance.
‘‘Lots of people think I can do it, so I want to show them I can.’’
Axe ace: Cromwell axeman Brad Pako, 14.