WA Arbfest 2024

WA Arbfest 2024 was a huge success. Dave Crispin, senior arborist at Treeswest Australia and Arboricultural Association of Western Australia (Arb West) committee member, was thrilled at the 2024 WA tree-climbing competition.

“Buddy, that rocked!”

“Dude, this was GOAT!”

Those are some of the comments I heard at the end of the Western Australian Arbfest (Tree Climbing Competition), staged in early March this year. And if you, like me, are not across what ‘GOAT’ actually means (I had to look it up), for the uneducated: Greatest Of All Time.

Novices welcome

After 12 months of planning by the Arb West committee WA Arbfest 2024 finally came to fruition, and I can honestly say it was well worth the effort.

Partnering with the City of Bayswater and the Stihl Shop Osborne Park, it was decided at the outset that new, up-and-coming climbers and novices should have the opportunity to compete against one another at a separate event. This meant the competition started on the Friday with the inaugural Novice Climbing Competition, and it proved to be a big success.

The venue

The venue for WA Arbfest 2024 was Claughton Reserve in the City of Bayswater.

Our requirements for the event, as you would expect, depended on the quality of the trees. We needed five or six mature trees with open canopies, minimal defects, and spaced far enough apart that we had separation from one climbing discipline to another, but not too far apart that climbers and their support had to walk any distance.

Other considerations included easy access from a major arterial road, a large open area with plenty of car parking space, and a central location.

And of course, being Western Australia, plenty of shade trees for climbers and spectators.

Claughton Reserve delivered!

Jordan Wong demonstrating his skills on his way to becoming the eventual winner in the inaugural Canopy Shootout. Image: Arb West

Sponsors and supporters

With thanks to our supporters and sponsors of WA Arbfest 2024: Stihl Shop Osborne Park, Vermeer WA, TCM Tree Care Machinery, Daimler Trucks, Ahern, Multi One Loaders, Rosher, Uniforest, Rise Equipment, Digrite, Baileys, Husqvarna, Hayes Tree Care, LRV8 and Bioscience. Without them the event would not have been possible. Thank you!

ABC Radio Perth was the first live cross for the day, with ArbWest Committee member Jolyon Elliott spruiking the event to a state-wide audience. The second live cross was on Channel 10, just before the national news in a segment called What’s on in Perth this weekend.

A great start

With a field of 47, a 68 per cent increase from the previous competition, the stage was set for a spectacular event.

The novice competition ran smoothly, with several climbers showing great potential and being asked to attend the following day.

Saturday was an early start with volunteers arriving from 6.00am, bleary-eyed from the previous day. With a coffee to start from one of our vendors at the event, it was go, go, go, throughout the whole day. If it wasn’t for the support of the volunteers the event would not have run as smoothly as it did. In recognition of this, we decided on a volunteer award, with the eventual recipient, Hayes Tree Care.

All stallholders were allocated a spot and all were marshalled in place on the Friday, ready for the following day.

The backdrop of the sun rising through a light mist sitting on the river set the stage for a glorious Perth Saturday and the buzz from sun-up was electric. All competitors were on time and ready for the pre-start briefing.

During several head counts between 10.00am, and 3.00pm, conservative estimates were put at around 450-500 people at any one time: a great turnout by any account. All the hard work with our marketing strategy and advertising had paid off. The aim was to encourage the support crews, work colleagues and the public to attend, walk around visiting stallholders, and watch the event. Conversations with stall holders at the end of the day were very positive, with orders taken for both machinery and equipment. All vendors commented on how well the event ran, and they were excited to get involved next year, promising to be back bigger, and better.

Briar Waugh

Climbers came from interstate and intrastate, both male and female, vying for a chance to win big and compete in the national climbing competition. Of the climbers qualified for the nationals, two, Briar Waugh and Riki Peterson, shared a quick chat.

In a previous life, Briar, 26, was a youth worker in New Zealand and travelled to Broome as part of a road trip around Australia. In search of work to fund the next leg of the trip she answered an advertisement for a tree worker. With her love of the outdoors, and an industry that prides itself on inclusion, she very quickly became an asset to the company.

I asked Briar, who works for Kimberley Tree Care, how long she’d been climbing. To my surprise it was only one year. She’s 2.5 years into her three-year apprenticeship and climbs as much as she can. Asked what life was like as a climber in the Kimberley, Briar explained that no two days were the same. She’s based in Broome, but may travel local, or out to a remote community, travel three hours to Fitzroy crossing, or two days to Kununurra. Briar is a champion of equal opportunities, and with temperatures reaching 42 degrees daily, and humidity at 85 per cent, she ‘holds her own’.

Briar Waugh pruning a palm tree at Cable Beach. Image: Arb West

“We have to drink at least 10 litres of water a day, with electrolytes, to avoid dehydration,” she said. “We also have to take two sets of kit.”

“What type of trees do you work with?” I asked.

“Lots of palms,” she replied, “25m-30m Moringa trees (Moringa oleifera), and Baobab var. that smells like rotting faeces. You must be careful not to get it on your skin or clothes because you have to shower and change straight away, otherwise you ride home in the truck on your own.”

I asked if there were any challenges she faced coming from youth work.

“I had to train at the gym for a while to be able to start the big saws and build up my fitness, but that didn’t take long,” she said.

Gauging Briar’s enthusiasm, and her passion for the industry, I’m certain we’ll see more of her in years to come.

Briar and crew taking a break on the Tanami Track. Image: Arb West

Riki Peterson

Riki Peterson and the Western Australian Tree Climbing Competition have a symbiotic relationship – they benefit from one another.

Riki draws a crowd. With his skill and speed usually unmatched, he consistently manages to place. The first time Riki stepped into a harness was back in 2010 in a climbing competition. Since then he’s gone on to qualify for five national events and two Red Bull events. This year was no exception, taking out first place in the aerial rescue, aerial ascent, and the work climb, and walking away with a tidy prize pool.

Other climbers who placed high included:
• Oliver Willmoth – first in the throwline and the speed climb
• Pascal Oosterik,
• Aydyn Aagesen, and
• Luke Osborne.

Canopy Shootout

Another first for WA Arbfest 2024 was the introduction of the ‘Canopy Shootout.’ Qualifiers competed for only five spots, with their placings considered throughout the day. A spot in the shootout meant a chance at walking away with the $1,100.00 cash prize and an attractive looking trophy. The competition was fierce, with all climbers bringing their A game, but the eventual winner was Jordan Wong. Jordan’s speed and skill set him apart from the rest, and he was definitely a crowd favourite.


Events like these provide an exciting spectacle for spectators, pushing the boundaries of what climbers can achieve in their sport. We look forward to welcoming back the interstate challengers again next year, who will be undoubtably eager to take away line honours and bragging rights at the next Canopy Shootout, part of the Western Australian ArbFest in 2025.

Stay up to date with Arb West at arbwest.com.au.

Image: Arb West
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