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Teen creates practice log rolling machine in garage

Matthieu Thibault competitively log rolls, but he needed a place to practice at home without a pool.

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — Matthieu Thibault, 16,  plays a unique sport. He’s a log roller and travels all around Michigan and Wisconsin to compete.

“You get used to it,” said Matthieu, “and you develop your skills. But for the beginners, it’s very hard and they can’t really stay on the log for more than ten seconds.”

He practices at the Mary Free Bed YMCA in the pool. However, he struggled to find a way to hone his skills at home without the water.

So, he built something he could use.

Credit: 13 OYS
Matthieu practices log rolling on his machine.

It’s a prototype, a dry land log rolling contraption. It was sparked by a school project, but he hopes his invention will grow the sport.

“It spins around this metal rod, right?” said Matthieu, “I had to find a way to create drag, so it would act like a log in water. I also put on spring mounts, so that it would kind of give slight bob when you’re on the log.”

Matthieu said he spent a lot of time researching what materials he would need, and how to build something to simulate a log in water. He’s still fine tuning it. Currently, he’s trying to find ways to slow it down.

“It takes a lot of balance when you’re log rolling,” said Matthieu. “And the log bobs in the water a lot. And when you’re heavier, sometimes the log will go underwater.”

Matthieu will present the project to his school on March 19.

“I’m extremely proud of him,” said his mom, Gaelle Thibault. “It was not an easy project. He could have gone with things that were easier, but he stuck with it and it’s very impressive.”

Gaelle said log rolling has become a family sport. Their three children all log roll, and they travel together for competitions and events.

“I tried it, my husband tried it,” said Gaelle, “I competed once because I told my kids I would, but that’s done.”

Matthieu said participating in the sport reminds him of the history of it. In Michigan, lumberjacks would have to hop on the logs and roll in the water, to remove jammed logs along the river.

“Sometimes, a lot of the times, really dangerous waters,so they had to be very skilled at it," said Matthieu.

He hopes his invention will make it easier for more people to get involved in the sport.

“I encourage people to join it or give it a try,” said Matthieu, “They might not be very good at it for the first couple times, but it ends up being a very rewarding journey and adventure.”

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