When Kiah woodchopper Bob Munday polishes up his axes in preparation for the upcoming Eden Whale Festival woodchopping demonstration, it is with a sense of reluctance.
After more than 60 years of swinging the axe on the chopping block, the champion axeman said he is finding it hard to walk away quietly from the sport that has taken him throughout his entire life.
“If my wife was alive today, she’d say you’re a bloody fool, just give it away. But it’s hard to give up something that you’ve been doing your whole life.”
Like many men of the woodchopping world, it was Munday’s father who taught him the knowledge of the chop.
“I’ve been chopping since I could pick up an axe,” Munday recalled.
“I used to go out with Dad and help him chop the blocks for shows.”
Munday was just a boy of eight when he first competed in a competition at the Bairnsdale Show in 1949.
“My dad told me I had to wait until I was 13, but I must have harped on so much so that my mum said ‘let him chop or I’ll kill him’.”
It was a returned serviceman, a Japanese prisoner of war, who really gave Munday the inspiration for competition.
“He was a prisoner of war who weighed about four and half stone when he got off the ship. He built himself up to be one of Australia’s best axemen.
“Although I was only about eight at the time I thought well if he can do it after everything he’d been through I reckoned I had a good chance.”
Fast forward 10 years or so, Munday and his wife, childhood sweetheart Gillian, were active participants in the woodchopping arena and would spend weekends with kids in tow travelling to “chops”.
“One year we spent 50,000 miles going to chops.”
The Munday family are known as trailblazers in the woodchopping community.
Munday humbly takes pride in his accomplishments, but it’s those of his of children – chips off the old block you could say – that bring a sparkle to his eye.
“Us Mundays, we have got a lot to answer for,” he said cheekily.
His daughter Cathy Munday was Australia’s first ever female woodchopper and has paved the way for women from all over the world to compete in the male-dominated event.
She has also been inducted into the Australian Axeman’s Hall of Fame.
With eight grandchildren and another on the way, Munday is hopeful axeman fever will strike one of the grandkids.
When asked what will he do with his collection of axes upon retirement, he said, “I hope one of the young fellas will take a liking to them”.