Scott Forrest comes second in defense of his 2014 title.
NZ Arb congratulates all the Kiwis involved (Scott, Craig Wilson and Steph White) at the ITCC. Another awesome showing on the international stage.
REPORT FROM ELISABET BEHRMAN | Tampa Tribune
Rowlett Park is getting a free facelift this weekend as about 60 of the world’s fastest arborists scale the park’s oak trees, dodging clumps of Spanish moss and trimming knobbly branches as they vie for the title of top tree climber.
The riverfront park is hosting the International Tree Climbing Championship, where competitive climbers from 17 countries are judged on how fast they can scale a 50-foot tree, how well they aim when tossing a throwline — the rope that helps them scale a tree — and how quickly they can complete a series of tree-trimming tasks before descending back to the ground.
“Everyone who is competing is an actual arborist and do this on a day-to-day basis,” said Sonia Garth, spokeswoman for the International Society of Arboriculture, which hosted the event. “It’s an opportunity to bring out the public to see what these guys do.”
Each of the 58 competitors qualified for the event in a regional contest before moving on to the championship. The event has been held annually all over the globe since 1976.
The Florida chapter of the ISA, based in Sarasota, hosted the international competition this year and selected Rowlett Park specially for the event, Garth said. The competition requires trees that are tall enough and with enough splayed branches for the various challenges the competitors face.
In previous years, the championship has been held in cities like Portland, Ore.; Milwaukee and Toronto, Garth said. Even though Florida’s trees are a little different from those familiar to Northeners, Saturday’s warm weather was a nice change of pace for the dozens of competitors and hundreds of spectators who traveled from afar to participate or watch.
“These live oaks? They’re beautiful trees,” said Marilou Dussault, a competitor from Montreal.
The competition organisers always consider what they call the “local factor” when selecting a location for the championship, said Andrew Hardyk, chair of the event. That is the term they apply to various challenges trees in the host city could pose to the climbers.
In Tampa, that could be moss, pollen or Florida critters living in or near the trees, he said. The organizers send out notifications to participating chapters to be aware of those things and to bring the right gear.
“That’s all part of the game,” Hardyk said.
More than just a competition, the championship is about educating the public about the importance of trees and how to preserve them, Garth said.
The competitors are professional arborists, who often are called to trim, prune or remove a tree that may not be approachable by cherry-picker lift, she said. They all know how to set their ropes and harnesses in a tree without harming it so they can get up in the branches and take care of the tree properly.
The championship also allows them to get up to speed on the latest tree-climbing equipment and techniques.
“They learn a lot from each other and by watching other competitors in the industry,” Garth said.
In addition to two days of competition — the winners will be announced Sunday evening — the event includes live entertainment, food trucks, an arbor fair and expo, and an “Ask an Arborist” booth, where people may bring photographs or ask questions about their own trees.
“There’s lots of things to think about when it comes to taking care of your trees,” Garth said.