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11 things about … climbing trees?!

Competition tree climber and TAFE NSW Arboriculture teacher shows you the ropes.

11 things about … climbing trees?!

Climbing trees is something many kids love to do. But for one reason or another, it’s something we stop doing. Well, most people stop doing it. Not TAFE NSW Arboriculture teacher Zac Shearer.

The nationally competitive tree climber has a swag of national and international medals hanging from his harness, so he knows more than 11 things about trees, but everyone likes those lists!

1. The best tree to climb

Zac says it’s the eucalypt or an oak tree: “They are nice and spread out and they are normally good for free climbing.”

Don’t worry, he is still roped and harnessed in, but he doesn’t actually use the ropes for getting higher.

2. Hardest tree to climb

No particular species: “The hardest trees to climb are the ones that don’t have a centre high point.”

3. Favourite tree - for climbing and just in general

Simple: the lemon-scented gum.

4. What about being scared of heights?

“You always get the butterflies when you really high.”

5. Number one safety tip

“Harness and ropes. No exceptions!”

6. Favourite country to climb trees in

Germany. “There is nothing special about the trees in Germany - it’s just amazing to be paid to travel, and Germany was my favourite place to travel’

7. Do you need to have been a good tree-climber when you were a kid?

Doesn’t hurt. Zac confesses that he was constantly climbing trees when he was at school. “It’s crazy to think now about getting right to the free climbing, no harness or anything.”

8. When did you think ‘wow, I can climb trees for a living?’

Zac was one year out of school, working in landscaping, and some guy came in to prune a tree.

“I thought ‘that looks like the thing for me’. I just loved climbing and being outdoors. The next day I started emailing different companies.”

Before long Zac got offered a job that came with TAFE NSW training.

9. What came first: tree climbing competitions or work in arboriculture?

“Well, it’s not like a sport you get into without being in the business. But the competitions are a great way to meet other people in the industry and learn new techniques.”

Zac says winning competitions are a great opportunity for him to sell himself: “Employers want to know how good you are; can you do this and that? If you say you’ve won a competition, it tells them everything.”

10. What do you love about teaching at TAFE NSW?

"Sharing what I’ve learned, seeing the guys learning the skills. It’s is very gratifying.”

11. What advice to aspiring aboriculturists?

Zac says he is happy to report that there are more and more women getting into arboriculture. “When I started out it was all guys but that’s not really the case now.”

He also wants to encourage you to give it a try.

"It’s just something you haven’t learned yet.”

“Anyone can do it, even if you’re a bit scared of heights, or you think it’s too physical.

Zac certainly learned it and is now sharing the skills. He has won the Victorian Open Grade Tree Climbing Championship, was ranked fifth in a competition in Belgium, and in the top 10 in the Australian Competitive Tree Climbing Championships.

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