More to the Story with Staley: Tree Climbing Passion

CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. (WDEF) — If you’ve ever watched a professional cut down a tree, you certainly know what a difficult job it is, with a lot of danger involved. The skills of a professional arborist were on display this weekend here in Chattanooga.

Make no mistake; it’s a playing field. Yet, no one is really playing. Because it’s serious business.

It’s the two-day Southern Tree Climbing Championship at East Lake Park. The best of the best.

“What everybody is doing today is acting like they’re on the job site,” competitor and arborist Maria Tranguch said. “Going into the tree and doing certain things. We’re judged on things such as safety and technique. And a whole bunch of other things.”

There are five judges on the scene as the contestants have 30 minutes to do their thing: on the ground, and up high in the sky.

All of the men and women are professional arborists. These people are not novices. In other words, amateurs are not allowed in.

“You must have years of experience here. You must show documented proof that you’ve been doing years of tree care,” arborist and head judge Bob Lubbers said. “We have to make sure their skills can hold up to what we’re throwing at them.”

And that brings into play the danger factor. If a mistake is made, well, it’s a long way down. These fine folks, who do this for a living, well know the score. Even in a competition such as this.

“On a scale of one to ten, our job is one of the most dangerous,” competitor and arborist Andrew Duarte said. “But we take so many precautions. And we do things safely.”

“It’s somewhat dangerous. We must abide by certain specs. There is a danger factor. But then again, that’s kind of the thrill of it,” Lubbers said.

That might be the remarkable thing about this competition. In this line of work, it’s the passion behind it.

These are serious people. Yes, having fun. But enjoying everything there is about this. They are completely dedicated to winning.

“There is definitely a lot of passion involved,” Duarte said. “Everybody is trying to push their limits, and learn too. One of the reasons the newer guys come out here is to see how others do things, and also learn how to do things safely.”

The champions of this event now move on to the international competition, to be held in New Mexico, come August.

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