Stacey Te Huia shears
sheeps sheep. In fact, he’s one of the best shearers in the world, which basically means he’s the toughest guy you’ll ever meet. Competing in World Record Shearing has been compared to running back to back marathons, while wrestling a small clawless bear. Events last for 8-9 hours in 30+ degree heat. Gun shearers like Stacey work with over 700 live animals per event, each weighing about 60kg (132lbs). Competitors are often covered in burrs and grass seeds that irritate skin constantly. They work in a hunched position, handling sharp blades and wriggling animals. It is physically brutal, and requires a gruelling training regime similar to that of other elite athletes.
Top shearers who shear for a living can remove the wool from an adult sheep in under two minutes. Stacey regularly gets them done in around 30 seconds.
DSM caught up with the man from Te Kuiti, New Zealand, in Kiama, NSW, Australia, where he can be found most weekends, riding some waves and sleeping in his van on his days off.
Unlike most extreme sports, people have been doing what Stacey does throughout much of human history, albeit, a lot more slowly. Our species has benefitted hugely from the wool of this amazing animal and the people that farm them. In Australia and New Zealand the national economy depended upon people like Stacey for decades. Though everyone owns and loves wool products, outside of country communities, shearers are largely forgotten. World Record Shearing is a great reminder to the wider community of the skill and strength required of the people that work at the forefront of this industry.
DSM: You compete at the highest level in a rare and ancient extreme sport. Explain the world of competitive shearing to folks that might not have come across it.
STH: World Record Shearing consists of 8 or 9hrs of intense shearing, depending on which record u want to go for.
“For the next one I’ve got to average under 45 seconds per sheep, which includes going in and out of the pen, catching one, dragging, pushing and pulling the 60kg animal out, that doesn’t want to cooperate, then getting it done.”
Experts say a record attempt is equalivent to 2 marathons back to back.
: I used to train with you at Crossfit in Bathurst
, so I’ve seen how hard you push yourself to get into peak form for events, and seeing the footage of you in competitions is just epic! How’d you originally get into such an insane sport?
: Yes, it is insane bro. Its not for the faint hearted or the weak. I pride myself in my belief that God’s blessed me with such a huge heart and the skill I need to do what I love. I grew up watching my dad shearing. Being a hard worker. Doing it for his family. So I guess thats where it all started and where the passion grew.
Back then the record was only 650 odd. In those days those guys and those tallys were unbeleivible to the shearing world. For me to be up there exceeding those tallys and becoming a giant of the shearing world is very humbling. I often look back and remember the early days and where it all began.
“All the ups and down’s I’ve been through in my life have all played a part in where I am today. School never got a chance with me ’cause I’d always want to go to work with my dad!”
Work-wise it is, and always will be, a competitive sport. Everyone wants to be better than the next.
“We go to work to support our familys and build us a future with our hands, and because we get paid by how many we shear, it’s top priority to shear as many as possible every day. The easiest way to do that is to race.”
Push your body mind and fellow man or woman to the limits. It’s a bit like us at Crossfit; pushing each other to the limits. Finding weak spots. And after it’s over, we shake hands, have a laugh, and do it all again! Love it!
DSM: You’re also a dad, a surfer, you work long hours, travel a lot and train heaps. It’d be a lot easier to sit around and chill than do all the shit you do. What motivates you to keep shearing at such a high level, despite all the difficulties?
“Well bro, I love being dad, I love surfing, I love travelling, I love working and I love training. I love my life!”
Work and training help me to be a better dad. A good role model for my kids and anyone else that looks up to me. The surfing is my release on life, my time out with the kids. Waking up at the beach with the kids, the sun’s up, no wind, waves are pumping… nothing better bro. Nothing better.
What drives me to do what I do? I think everyone is blessed with certain skills, certain opportunities. Certain people that come into our lives that help us reach our full potential. We just gotta recognise the good things from the bad and move forward. Strive to be better than yesterday.
“Being a good role model for my kids is a biggy too. What kind of dad would I be if I thought life was what TV or Facebook told us it was? We should all do as much in our lives as we can with the people we love while we’re here. Teaching our young how to live, how to be better and how to be happy.”
DSM: You regularly hunt down epic shearing records, and you’ve got another one this year right? What’s with the magical 700 sheep barrier? Am I right in thinking only 4 other humans in history have ever broken the 700 mark?
STH: Yeah bro, I hunt down records, but this next one is the biggest; the toughest. It’s the Everest of records. So all the previous records were stepping-stones towards this. Only 5 people have ever done 700 on ewes ever in history. I’m one of them. But I still didnt get the record of 721. That’s what my goal is this year.
DSM: So that’s what’s next for Stacy Te Huia?
“That, and more wave time! And just keep growing in different areas of my life. Keep being a good dad and role model. And maybe find a wife, ’cause I’ve been single the past 5 years!”
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