Competitive tree climbing has helped mold our industry over many years, actually decades. It all started in the late 70’s and was molded after what was called the Lineman Rodeo. That event was put on by utility companies and the competition was an aerial rescue on a utility pole. Line clearance tree trimers got wind of this and started the Tree Climbers Jamboree. Shortly after that the International Society of Arboriculture (ISA) took over the event and developed the International Tree Climbing Championship involving competitions and competitors from all over the world. Over the years the event and rules have evolved along with the standards of the industry, which is the intent of the event. These competitions have changed and molded the industry to become more professional, have a better understanding of safe work practices and many other industry improvements.
So how did we (KTS) become involved in Tree Climbing Competitions? It started back in 1992 when we, my brother (Jeff) and I, were signed up to compete at our local chapter competition, the Illinois Tree Climbing Championship. We were pretty much forced into competing by our father. The idea and value of the competition was not to win but to learn. Back then there was no training available we simply learned from the generations before us, and we were very limited on tools and techniques. Participating in this event was an” eye-opener” for us. As luck would have it, Jeff won the competition in ‘92 and qualified for the International Tree Climbing Championship which was held in Oakland, CA. Unfortunately, we were unable to attend because at that time the local chapters did not support the competitor enough to make it possible to attend. That changed the very next year. If you win your local event you are qualified to compete at the international level and the chapter would support all travel and registration costs. Jeff went on to win six more years in a row and we were able to attend all of those international events.
So how could competing in this competition affect one’s company or career? Jeff was obviously a competent tree climber. Yet, in 1997 he resigned from competitive tree climbing while having gained many new skills and relationships with other competitors. Shortly afterward, Jeff changed his career path and pursued sales and business development for Kramer Tree. Having a very strong background on the difficulties that tree climbing can have and the time it takes to perform proper arboriculture practices was a huge benefit for him when it came to selling work properly by being able to identify hazards, obstacles and having the proper staff and equipment in order to perform the work properly. Being a competitive tree climber greatly helped his career in business development and sales. Jeff is still involved in our local chapter competition by volunteering every year as a competition event judge.
I also started competitive tree climbing back in ’92, I performed well taking 2nd or 3rd place for those first 7 years and attended the international events with Jeff. I then continued competing for a total of 23 years. I was able to win our local event 10 times. I also went to almost all of the international events whether I qualified or not. If I did not qualify, I would stay active by volunteering. Being actively involved in these events by competing or volunteering had a great impact on my career. I was able to become competent in all the latest tools and techniques to help improve the industry. I was also able to meet some of the greatest arborists in the world and make lifelong friends from all over the globe. My career started shifting from a climber/crew leader to a training position over time. Because of my success at local competitions, I was asked by the local chapter if I would like to teach the climbing/safety portion of a course that was taught in the evenings to help students pass the Certified Arborist exam. I accepted and was super nervous on that first night, but I was able to get over it and I really enjoyed helping people expand their careers. From there the door started to slowly open and I was able to start teaching all sorts of different topics all over the country for different ISA chapters, TCIA events, private companies, etc. If I was not actively involved in the tree climbing championships my career would not be where it is today.
Being involved in industry events by attending, competing, or volunteering is a great way to expand your knowledge and meet new colleagues and like-minded professionals to collaborate with. Networking with arborists from all over the world is a great way to help solve problems that you and your organization may have. Get involved, stay involved, grow your skills and help advance the arboriculture industry!
Learn more here about how you can attend, compete, volunteer, or judge at the annual Illinois Tree Climbing Championship! This year’s event is being held on May 21, 2022 at Shiloh Park in Zion, IL. It is an all-day event and will incorporate an Arbor Fair, lunch, and fun for the family!
Kramer Tree Specialists
ISA Certified Arborist IL-1189AT, CTSP #039