Don’t try this at home: competitive axe-throwing builds underground following
Axe-throwing is about form, technique and muscle memory, not strength – a lot like golf
Competitive indoor axe-throwing is like darts – “but bigger and more satisfying,” declares the Urban Axes website. Also, with a potentially deadly tool and a 12-point liability waiver.
Axe-throwing has officially arrived in the United States. Specifically, in a former textile mill in Philadelphia’s Kensington area, a gritty neighbourhood quickly gentrifying with condos, cafes and hipsters. Another, unaffiliated hatchet-hurling venue, Bad Axe Throwing, also recently opened in Chicago.
“It’s not just come and throw an axe. It’s a structured game,” said Stuart Jones, one of Urban Axes’ four partners, who spent part of a recent night, power drill in hand, replacing shredded target boards. “It’s this constant quest for mastery. It’s mentally challenging as well.”
Although, he conceded, “it’s not hugely challenging physically”. Which would explain the beer.
Axe-throwing is played with 1.5-pound, 14-inch axes and is often enhanced by alcohol (you must be 21 to play). Urban Axes is a BYO venue offering a quartet of kitchen-size refrigerators fully stocked with players’ craft and down-market brews. Wine and food are also welcome.
The game is the latest entry in inventive leisure, a low-cost activity that provides community, novelty and the newest twist on a party when paintball and painting pottery have become been-there, done-that.
Axe-throwing, which is done in groups of eight or more, or in league play, with 30 competitors who register online. Two players stand in adjacent lanes, taking turns tossing axes at a target 14 feet away. In eight-week league play, competitors play round robin, a computer program assigning the pairings.
At Urban Axes, the decor is steampunk meets Home Depot. Queen wails on the sound system. The aroma? Woody with a top note of take-out.
“I like the whole underground-warehouse, Fight Club aesthetic,” says league member Freddie Patane, who works in video production.
Axe-throwing is about form, technique and muscle memory, not strength. In that regard, if nothing else, it’s a lot like golf. When tossed correctly, the axe spins in full rotations, registering in the pine target with a comforting thwack. Tossed wrong the metal clanks against the wall and the wooden floor, sometimes boomeranging close to a competitor’s feet. Ergo, the requirement of closed-toe shoes.
“Axe-throwing is a vehicle to bring people together,” Jones said. “The axe is just a medium to get 30 people to come together and share. The axe is the great equaliser.”