By Lindsay Toler
By Chad Garrison
By Brett Koshkin
By RFT Staff
By Lindsay Toler
By Riverfront Times
By Danny Wicentowski
By Pete Kotz
The fourth and final climber of the day in the masters' challenge, Strasser has finished surveying the giant oak and is ready to set his rope high in its limbs. The previous three climbers have all tied in on the eastern side of the tree, affording them the leverage required reach the final bell, placed at the end of a low, curling branch that buckles easily under their weight. Strasser chooses to tie in on the western side of the tree, opposite from where he needs to finish.
He quickly footlocks up the rope, soaring into the canopy. Swinging and scampering from branch to branch, he easily reaches the first three targets. He is remarkably smooth and agile in the tree, catlike and coolly confident.
"There's no fear [of falling], but I have respect for heights," Strasser says. "I feel safer being in the tree than driving in a car on the road."
With one station left to go, Strasser makes a surprising decision that draws applause from the audience of several hundred: He climbs over the top of the highest fork in the tree's trunk and reties his line on the opposite side. Rather than walk out onto the final limb and risk a penalty by bending it too far, he opts to drop down on it from above. After tapping the bell with his saw, he gracefully slides to the ground.
The judges love the way he methodically moves through the tree, patiently and resourcefully working his way to each station. For the third consecutive year, he is crowned champion.
Strasser insists there's no secret to his success. In fact, when asked what he thinks about as he climbs, his response is pure Zen.
"I am not thinking. I am trying to be one with the tree," he says. "You have to look at the tree not as a sporting object but as a living being."