Tree climbing | Jason Gerrish

Miami man ascending to the top of his sport — tree climbing

 
 
 <span class="cutline_leadin">Fast riser:</span> Jason Gerrish demonstrates his championship tree climbing skills at Peacock Park in Coconut Grove.
Fast riser: Jason Gerrish demonstrates his championship tree climbing skills at Peacock Park in Coconut Grove.
Sue Cocking / Miami Herald Staff

scocking@MiamiHerald.com

Jason Gerrish has been climbing trees for a living since he dropped out of high school in 1992 to help clean up the arboreal mess left by Hurricane Andrew. Now the 37-year-old Miami native and owner of Tree Huggers is being recognized as the top tree climber in Florida.

Gerrish beat a field of 32 arborists in the Feb. 22 Florida Tree Climbing Championship in Lakeland put on by the state chapter of the International Society of Arboriculture. He won $1,000 worth of tree-trimming tools and a spot in the world Tree Climbing Championship in Milwaukee on Aug. 2.

“It’s a challenge. It’s knowing you are at the top of your game,” Gerrish said.

The 1,400-member Florida organization headquartered in Sarasota has conducted the championship each year since 1996 “to have arborists who are particularly skilled at climbing and maintaining trees to show off their skills working in trees,” said Norm Easey, chapter CEO.

Gerrish has competed five times at the state level, and his highest previous finish was a second place in 2002. He really didn’t have to train very much for last month’s event since the five categories pretty much mirror what he does every day. Tree Huggers doesn’t have a bucket truck like what Florida Power & Light workers ride in to fix power lines — too expensive, Gerrish says — so he has to use ropes, pulleys, harness and clamps to get himself and his tools up and down a tree.

“You can see what’s rotten, what’s going on,” he said of tree climbing. “You get better cuts.”

The state championship consisted of five events: tossing a throw ball with a line attached over a designated tree branch; belayed speed climbing, or, hoisting oneself up a tree using feet and a rope; work climbing, which involves starting at the top of a tree and completing tasks at five stations among the boughs; aerial rescue, which is rescuing a dummy trapped high up in a tree; and footlock, which is pulling oneself up a tree with feet locked in a rope.

“I didn’t think I was going to win. I wasn’t smooth at all,” Gerrish said.

He expects tough competition at the Milwaukee event, which is considered the tree climbing Olympics with about 45 contestants from around the world.

Gerrish wishes more people understood what arboriculture really entails.

“It’s like a lawn man, in people’s opinion,” he said. “It’s really nothing like that. It’s a dynamic game. It’s a puzzle you have to make everything fit. The ultimate goal is tree health and architecture for the long term. They’re so much like people; they move in slow motion. Nothing keeps my attention like trees do.”

Read more Outdoors stories from the Miami Herald

  •  
Shane Hutto of Orlando holds up a large red snapper he caught off Port Canaveral with Cop Out Charters.

    Final red snapper of the season ready to be snapped up

    Only one weekend remains open in this summer’s eight-day red snapper recreational mini-season in federal South Atlantic waters. Anglers have from one minute after midnight Friday until midnight Saturday to bring home one fish per person of any size. After that, the season will be closed indefinitely.

  • Fishing report

    Captain Dean Panos of Double D charters out of Keystone Point Marina reported large amounts of Sargasso weeds in the Gulf Stream continue to attract large numbers of dolphins. Most of the dolphins have been schoolies but a few have been more than 30pounds. The dolphins have been in depths from 400 feet of water out as far as 18 miles.

  • Outdoors notebook

    This page is a regular weekly feature focusing on Florida outdoors adventures. Email scocking@MiamiHerald.com.

Miami Herald

Join the
Discussion

The Miami Herald is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere on the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

The Miami Herald uses Facebook's commenting system. You need to log in with a Facebook account in order to comment. If you have questions about commenting with your Facebook account, click here.

Have a news tip? You can send it anonymously. Click here to send us your tip - or - consider joining the Public Insight Network and become a source for The Miami Herald and el Nuevo Herald.

Hide Comments

This affects comments on all stories.

Cancel OK

  • Marketplace

Today's Circulars

  • Quick Job Search

Enter Keyword(s) Enter City Select a State Select a Category