Building a Log Boom

To build your own boom, you are going to need the following:

  • A suitable location
  • Unturned, debarked western red/white cedar, or other suitable species of logs
  • Rope (at least 3/4″ in diameter, and water resistant)
  • Connecting metal swivel links (to connect logs together)
  • Electric tape (to wrap the ends of the rope for feeding through the logs)
  • Electric drill with 12″ long, 1″ diameter boring bit (for drilling through logs)
  • Utility knife
  • Turn around obstacle (usually a large log or barrel)

Location – A suitable water location must be safe for competitors. The water must be free of debris, such as pilings, rocks, stumps, and any other debris that might injure competitors in the event that they fall. Docks must be composed of a flat wooden surface, so that competitors spikes provide traction as they round the obstacle. The turn-around obstacle is typically a large log or barrel fastened to the dock so that it does not tip over while competitors round it. Water depth must be at least 3 feet deep so as to prevent the “bottoming out” of logs as competitors run across them, and to provide the proper amount of safety if/when competitors fall. The bottom must be cleaned of any large debris (rocks, pilings, stumps) to prevent injury when competitors fall. A boom strung parallel to shore, from one dock to another provides for an excellent boom. Two booms strung side by side can also be done, but different water depths can become a factor.

Logs – Logs are typically debarked, unturned logs anywhere from 8 feet to 14 feet in length. They must be free of large gouges, holes, or anything else that could be an obvious hazard (besides the normal boom itself).  Logs MUST be cedar. Pine, or other softwoods will not work as they gain water too quickly and sink.
Electric Drill and Bit – Once the logs have been put into the water they will settle and quit rolling. It is important to do this so that the top, bottom, and sides of the log can be found. Once they have been found the holes can be drilled. The holes should be drilled in the sides of the logs diagonally from the end  into the side leaving at least 6″ of wood to prevent tearout.  The knots are placed on the sides of the log to prevent an athlete from tripping on the knot(s) while running.

Rope, Electric Tape, Utility Knife, Connecting Metal Links – These are the last materials needed to build a boom. Cut the rope to the proper length(s) with the utility knife. The ends of the rope must then be taped tightly with electrical tape, so that they can be fed through the holes that have been drilled in the logs. The distance between the logs varies. It needs to be long enough so that the boom has the proper slack, and so that the ends of the logs do not immediately “bottom out” on the rope when an athlete steps on the end of them. The distance between logs may be anywhere from 12-18″.   Booms stretch as they are broken in, so they will have to be tightened periodically. If the distance between the boom logs is too big, it will not be passable by competitors. If the distance is too small, the logs will bottom out and will not move enough to be difficult.

Fine Tuning an Assembled Boom

There are many factors that come into play when building a quality boom. One of those factors is the tightness of the boom. The boom should not be too tight that the boom is always in a straight line. However, a loose boom starts to curve and becomes much harder to run. The boom tension is recommended to be enough that the center of the boom is never more than 5 feet out of dead center (if a straight line were drawn between the two ends of the boom, that would be dead center), but enough that at least 1 feet of travel either way is possible. Logs should be allowed to jockey back and forth, so that they do not always line up. A new boom is going to stretch a lot, so it will have to be tightened after a few uses. It is recommended that a boom is “broke in” before competition to insure that it remains consistent for all competitors throughout the competition.

How Hard Should a Boom Be?

This is probably the most debated subject in the sport of boom running. How hard should the boom be? How many people should be able to make it? Who should be able to make it? Should it be a fast easy, boom, or a slow, hard boom? The difficulty level of a boom should be hard, but not so hard that it is dangerous, and impassible to most competitors. If 90% of the competitors make it without falling, it is too easy. If a competitor can sprint the entire boom without falling in, it is too easy. Boom running is a test of skill, not who can run the fastest. Then again, if 90% of the competitors do not make it, then it is probably too hard. It is an intricate balance that takes time to figure out. There are also a lot of outside variables that cannot be controlled, and must simply be left up to chance. The strength of the competitors in the contest (a direct result of the lure a contest has to the stronger competitors), weather during competiton (wind and rain mostly), a well as other more minor factors. A boom is something that only the toughest, and most skilled competitors should be able to do, not anyone off the street.