Bozeman resident Chris Hurlbut has many hobbies, including hiking, fishing and playing with his ham radio.
Did that last one seem unusual?
Ham radio is a hobby in which licensed amateur radio operators transmit over the airwaves, both for fun and, sometimes, to provide emergency communications.
“Ham radio has been in my family for a very long time,” Hurlbut said. “My grandfather used it. My dad practiced, so it was only natural that I was introduced to it.”
There is an old saying among the licensed amateur radio operators that says, “When all else fails, ham radio goes through.” And this month, Hurlbut will go through with the 2014 World Radio Sport Team Championship.
Hurlbut has been competing with and using ham radios for most of his life. The weekend-long competitions often require staying awake for long periods to win; Hurlbut once stayed up for 44 hours for a competition.
“I have been lucky enough to operate at many big stations in the U.S., getting my radio fix in short bursts on the weekends during contests,” Hurlbut said. “Over the years many contesters have proven to become mentors in all aspects of my life.”
Ham operators each have some sort of call sign when in competition. Every time a contestant makes contact with another, they exchange call signs. Contestants keep logs of each person they've reached, and the logs are cross-checked at the end.
Hurlbut is getting ready to leave for the world competition in Boston from July 8 to July 14.
“Having the best contesters in the world all in one place is really something,” he said. “In a sport that is solely based on peer recognition, this is a great opportunity to meet all of the big players.”
Teams were selected from around the world in a series of 55 qualifying events over a three-year period. Just earning a spot in the competition is a prestigious accomplishment for competitors, allowing them to represent their country and have the opportunity to win a coveted place on the podium.
Around the world, thousands will tune in and participate over the airwaves and follow the event's real-time Internet scoreboard. The largest “radio sport” competitions draw activity from more than 20,000 participants and can collectively include more than 2 million two-way contacts.
“The coolest part about ham radio is the people you get to talk to,” Hurlbut said. “Talking to people around the world is pretty amazing.”
This will be the third time Hurlbut has been in the world competition. He competed in Brazil in 2006 and in Russia in 2010.
“Each year has been such an experience for me,” Hurlbut said. “It is really cool to be a part of a global hobby.”