Axe-throwing sessions: they are a thing. And they're on the rise as a popular, quasi-lumberjack leisure activity in America (turns out it's a storied Canadian pastime). To learn more, we did it ourselves at Ragnarok Axe Throwing in Chicago (see the video above and see out their axe-throwing deal here). We also spoke to Melanie St. Amour, the Marketing and Development Coordinator at Bad Axe Throwing (which has multiple locations across the country). Here's what we found out.
The average axe-thrower gets way more tosses than we assumed during a typical session. That means you'll get so much practice that you'll essentially be a full-fledged outdoorsman by the time you leave.
"You're throwing at least 50 times," Melanie says. And with a throwing axe that weighs either 2.5 or 5 pounds, you'll build up Bunyan-esque strength, too. "It's a lot more active than you think it would be. You tend to work up a sweat."
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So how good should you expect to be at axe throwing when you show up? A lot of it depends on how good of a listener you are. Bad Axe's coaches will give your group a throwing orientation before you start throwing, and applying those instructions to your actual throws is crucial.
"If you're able to apply those instructions, you can hit a bull's eye within your second throw," Melanie says. Aside from listening, the old adage of "grip it and rip it" is key for a first-time axe-thrower. "It seems like it's a lot to think of, but after you throw it the first time, it comes naturally," Melanie says.
If it's not obvious by now, axe throwing is a pretty good mechanism for stress relief. So is it better to get angry and use axe throwing as a really badass form of catharsis, or will it benefit you to stay mellow while you throw? Melanie has seen both methods, and she says the better route to take is whatever works for you.
"I think some people really need that motivation and that power to throw the axe and hit the target, and other people sort of need that same mentality in golf, where you need to be cool, calm, and collected and just go with the flow," she says. So if you need to get angry and let out a rage cry during your throw, go for it—plenty of people do.
Would just stepping up, throwing an axe at a piece of wood, and waiting for your next turn be fun? Sure! But it's not so simple at Bad Axe Throwing. "It's very similar to the sport of darts," Melanie says, describing point values given to the concentric rings surrounding the bull's eye. Each board features two blue "kill shots" in the upper corners of the board, too. "Those are actually worth the most points—those are 10 points for each one—but they're the hardest to get."
So yes, you can objectively win or lose during an axe-throwing session by keeping score. But really, does anyone lose when you whip an axe into a giant wooden target?
Those wooden boards can only take getting peppered with blades so many times before needing to be replaced. So if you and your group really want to prove your collective mettle, it's simple: hit the board enough to destroy it. According to Melanie, it's not uncommon for some groups to hit the bull's eye so often during a three-hour session (which is a typical length, FYI) that the wooden target boards will need to be replaced right away. "It depends on how good the group is," Melanie tells me with a laugh.
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But the US isn't far behind! Melanie says that while our friendly neighbors to the north would dominate axe throwing if it was an Olympic sport, we Americans would probably take silver. "We opened our Chicago location last December, and people in the States were like, 'What? Axe throwing is a thing that people do?'" she says. "And the reaction there was so much fun! People loved it, and we were incredibly busy in Chicago. So we just thought, 'Oh my God, the people in the States love this.'"
Instagram images and videos courtesy of Bad Axe Throwing. Head to Bad Axe Throwing's Instagram page to see more wooden targets meeting their demise.
This article was originally published in a different format in 2017.