Linework is a career unlike any other, so it makes sense that the preparation is unusual, too. Every year since 1984, lineworkers from around the world have gathered in Bonner Springs, Kan., to compete in the International Lineman’s Rodeo.
Roughly 1,000 participants compete in job-related events like speed climbing, equipment repair and hurt-man rescue, which simulates rescuing an injured teammate from a power pole. They’re judged on speed, technique and safety procedures with the winners bringing home a trophy and bragging rights. It’s fun and a great way to build camaraderie with teammates, but it also makes them better at their job.
It keeps their climbing skills sharp so they’re ready for jobs where using bucket trucks isn’t possible, they learn to work safely under pressure and how to work as a team – a crucial part of linework. Every Duke Energy competitor must qualify by placing third or better at regional rodeos and most of them practice throughout the year. They compete in divisions based on years of service: the apprentice division for individuals with less than four years of experience and the journeyman division for teams of three.
In 2017, Duke Energy lineworker Bryan Minikel brought home the 2017 World Champion Apprentice title. Watch the videos below where he explains a couple of the rodeo events.
The goal is to climb the pole as safe and fast as possible, but there’s a catch – competitors have to do it while carrying a raw egg. If it breaks, the competitor loses points. The added challenge is a way to practice climbing smoothly and calmly.
Wearing safety gear, the lineworker climbs up the pole with a basket containing the egg in his mouth. When he gets to the top, he swaps that basket for one hanging on a hook, takes the egg out and puts it in his mouth and climbs down. The winning time is usually around 20 seconds for apprentices and 40 seconds for journeymen.
The hurt-man rescue simulates having to rescue an injured teammate from the pole. The competitor starts by putting on his climbing gear and racing to the top of the pole. When he reaches his teammate (a dummy for the rodeo), he ties three half-hitch knots around a rope that’s secured around the dummy’s waist. Then, he cuts the dummy’s safety strap and lowers him to the ground. Winning times for apprentices are usually 40 to 50 seconds and around a minute for journeymen.