45th annual Nevada Day Rock Drilling competition offers unique experiences
Tobin Rupert and Jeff Cooper aren’t strangers to the Single Jack Rock Drilling World Championships hosted annually at the Nevada Day parade.
The 45th annual event brought perfect weather Saturday, setting the stage for contestants from all over the nation to try to drill the deepest hole they can in 10 minutes.
Rock drilling is also known as the traditional sport of western mining camps and outside of a few small strategies, willpower and endurance are the names of the game.
With one hand on a drill bit and the other wielding a hammer, competitors have only a steady stream of water to help excavate their hole in a large granite slab.
Rupert, who hails from Carson City, entered Saturday’s contest as a veteran, taking to the metal stage for the 17th year in a row, dating back to his first appearance in 2003.
Though the longtime participant didn’t set his best mark in the event, participating while in his 50s is something he’s taken solace in.
Rupert, who posted a depth of 8.41 inches, said he got his start in the sport after growing up boxing, noting that there isn’t any event that lets you swing as hard as you can for 10 full minutes.
“There’s no other sport where a man can unleash,” said Rupert, “and you don’t hurt anyone but yourself up there.”
Rupert spends his time practicing at his auto body and jewelry shop on his own rock.
He doesn’t only attend the competition at Nevada Day either, adding that he’s done his fair share of traveling to test himself elsewhere.
The University of Nevada product said results can vary widely, depending on the day, before adding he’s hit marks of 11 and 12 inches.
Regardless of the depth, the wear and tear is still plenty evident.
“When you wake up tomorrow morning, every piece of your body is sore,” Rupert said. “It seems like the easiest sport, but there are a hundred million things that could go wrong up there.”
Though by no means a rookie, Cooper still considers himself one of the newer contests on the block after his fifth run at the rock drilling event, dating back to 2015.
Also a Carson City resident, Cooper showed a little more of the danger involved in the sport after clipping his thumb a few times, eventually opening up a small wound over the final few minutes of competition.
The sport isn’t for the faint of heart as Cooper’s injury was small and only showed the possibilities of what could happen on a 10-minute drill run.
In his run, Cooper slugged away without a glove or a hand guard, which isn’t his usual way of going through the competition.
“I’m mediocre at best,” joked Cooper. “I play guitar and I didn’t want to thrash my hand, which apparently that didn’t work today.”
“That’s the official welcome to rock drilling tattoo,” joked Rupert after taking a glance at Cooper’s hand.
For practice, Cooper says he hits on a tire which has a lot more rebound than metal on metal.
Though Cooper participates for fun, he noted that the event brings out some of the best people.
“Everyone here is genuine people. The guys and ladies (participating) are amazing,” said Cooper. “Just watching it man and seeing these guys get after it is what turned me on to it.”
The world record in the competition was set by Scott Havens of Elko, who hit a depth of 16.09 inches in 1994 before besting that mark the following year with a final tally of 16.12 inches.
After 10 minutes of brutal endurance, it doesn’t lake long for contestants to find the cold beverages after showing their stamina in front of spectators.
Cooper noted he’s learned his lesson from getting into the suds prior to the event as opposed to afterward.
“I tried it one year and had a couple before and I was even more unwieldy than I was today,” laughed Cooper. “It tastes way better after.”
Cooper also said that Rupert has been a guide to helping him improve at the sport as well.
“They’ve kind of helped coach me along. Tobin is also like, ‘hey man just treat it like a backyard,’” said Cooper. “A lot of people put a lot of time into their tooling.
“It’s a great time coming out here to Nevada Day.”