Three world chopping titles to be contested in Hokitika

By Brendon McMahon

Hokitika will host an international chopping event early next year.
The two-day event on Cass Square on January 17-18 will mark the 100th anniversary of the Hokitika Axeman’s Club.
President Wayne Stuart said three world chopping titles would be contested — the 350mm standing, 350mm underhand and a 500mm jack and jill sawing event.
“They’re going to be the main three events over the two days. We’re going to have all sorts of chopping for everyone else. There’ll be plenty of events each day,” Mr Stuart said.
The club expects between 80 and 100 competitors at this stage and hopes to attract top choppers from axe wielding nations such as Germany, Holland, England and Wales.
“We know we’ve got a few of the top Aussie axemen and we’re getting most of the top New Zealand axemen.”
Mr Stuart said Cass Square had figured large in the history of Hokitika chopping and the 100th event would be staged there adjacent to the main stand. A temporary covered stand was planned for opposite the main stand to cater for hundreds of spectators.
“We’re hoping to drag a good crowd — we’re looking for a big weekend,” Mr Stuart said.
The club had a distinguished history over its 100 years, with several national and world title holders coming out of Hokitika.
“We’re one of the biggest chopping clubs on the West Coast, and probably in New Zealand. It has quite a proud history with quite a few New Zealand champions.”
In recent times, Adam Lowe has taken nine world titles. Further back, names like Rose, Curtain and Antonovich feature as top Hokitika axemen who have represented New Zealand in the past.
Mr Stuart said chopping attracted strong interest well before formal organisation of the sport began to emerge in New Zealand over a century ago.
Before the Edwardian era, chopping tended to be more of a “sideshow” event for individual axemen, but it became more mainstream once clubs began to be formed from the early 20th century.
“Most of the clubs around New Zealand are celebrating 100 years now.”
A key figure in early Hokitika chopping was Charlie O’Rourke, who held seven world titles in his day. He was one of the “mainstays” behind formation of the present club.
Mr Stuart said Hokitika remained a “fairly strong” centre for chopping, with 12 committed competitive axemen and a further six members in the wings.