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Axe Throwing: All You Need to Know About the Sport, From the Whistler Pros

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So you’ve been invited to go axe throwing and since you’re a go-getter and up for a new challenge, you said yes. Now you’re thinking to yourself “what is axe-throwing and what exactly have I gotten myself into?”

Well, no fear! The Whistler pro-axe-throwers are here to walk you through this magnificent, emerging sport. Read on to learn how axe-throwing even became a recreational activity, what’s involved, and how to do it. 

A History of Axe Throwing

High five after winning axe throwing

A competitive, but friendly vibe, is part of the axe-throwing allure.

Axes have a long, rich history dating back to cavemen, Vikings and ancient times. An axe was one of the simplest tools of mankind. However, the recreational use of axes is a relatively new and emerging sport. It is thought to have only been started a mere 15 or so years ago, purely out of boredom in a backyard in Toronto. The first official establishment in North America wasn’t even opened until 2011, so if you’ve never heard of it, you’re not that far behind.  

Axe throwing developed from messing around in the backyard, to the realization of how cathartic and fun throwing an axe can be. Point systems were quickly developed, proper targets were designed and the sport instantly piqued the interest of anyone who caught a glimpse. BATL (Backyard Axe Throwing League) came into existence as a founder of the sport, from the previously mentioned backyard shenanigans.

There are now 13 locations of BATL! Across North America, and endless other associations. Leagues were established based on demand and venues slowly explored to turn axe throwing into a legit sport. 

As we enter 2020, there are axe-throwing locations all over the world and over 6000 league members. On any given night people are chucking axes in over 240 cities and across 19 countries. There is even a National Axe Throwing Federation (NATF) that was developed in 2016 to standardize the sport across the globe. So, safe to say the answer is YES to the question “axe throwing? Is that a thing?”

While axe-throwing in Whistler is pretty iconic, the World Axe Throwing League was established to connect the international locations. You can throw axes all over Canada, the US, Australia and New Zealand, much of Europe including Italy, Spain and Germany, Indonesia, Peru and even Kazakhstan. 

The Basics of Axe Throwing

Axe head buried into a target at BATL

With locations across Canada, BATL is a go-to spot for local axe throwing

So, yes, we’ve established that axe-throwing is more than just backyard-boredom and it’s developed into an international sport. Like any other sport, to be successful and keep the conflict to a minimum, there need to be rules. Here is the gist of the rules in axe-throwing leagues across the world (they go into much more detail if you care to show up with the knowledge of the pros): 

  • The age-old rock-paper-scissors is used to determine who throws in which lane (each lane is typically a fenced-in alley with a target at the end), players switch rounds between rounds. A player can give up the rock-paper-scissors, effectively giving the other player a choice (if you love the left and they love the right, fine!)
  • There is a courtesy axe clinking before a match begins-this is a signal of camaraderie and doesn’t warrant a penalty if it’s forgotten, it’s just a demonstration of sportsmanship
  • Each match consists of three rounds with five throws each. If a tie occurs, there are tiebreaker rules set in place using the ‘big axe.’ All three rounds are completed regardless if one player wins the first two. Take advantage and throw as much as you can!
  • A bullseye is five points, the inner red ring is three, and the outer blue is one. There are also small green dots referred to as “clutch” worth seven points. Much like sinking the 8-ball in billiards, a clutch shot must be called beforehand. Hitting clutch when it is not called is worthless, as is hitting anything else when the clutch has been called. 
  • The blade must have its majority sunk into the point value to be counted, and it has to stick-even if it slowly falls out of the target, it doesn’t count. 

These, among other rules with much more detail, have helped to standardize and legitimize the sport. However, these rules are geared to league and competitions and can be largely taken with a grain of salt if you’re just throwing for fun. 

So, What’s the Trick to Axe Throwing?

If you’ve never gone axe-throwing before, you might be surprised to learn that there are several ways to throw an axe, each with its own grip, preparation, stance and release. The basic throw will be the first one you need to learn and master, and it goes like this:

  • Grip the axe firmly with your dominant hand, leaving about an inch of the handle below your hand. Make sure the blade is straight and not rotated either way so that the axe flies straight upon release
  • Place your non-dominant hand firmly above your dominant hand as a guide
  • Bring the axe, with both hands, back over your head as though you were throwing a soccer ball onto the field from out of bounds. Lean back slightly so you can use momentum to throw
  • Step forward with your non-dominant foot. Bring the axe forward in a quick motion and release with your arms straight, at head level

You’ll need to throw with a decent amount of force to get the axe to stay in the target. It might feel odd at first but it just takes practise!

Once you’ve mastered the basic throw, you can move on to one-handed, under-hand, the big axe and lots of different grips (These may only be available to practice at home though – you’ve got to keep the space at Forged safe for everyone. Ask your host for details). You can even throw two axes at once!

Is Axe Throwing Safe?

While the description in itself may sound a tad barbaric, as axe-throwing became more established in the recreational world, so did the safety alongside it. Every venue and league prioritizes safety and recognizes the innate risks of literal weapon throwing. Although it might sound chaotic or unsafe, it really isn’t. The standards in which axe-throwing venues follow ensure a safe and fun experience for everyone. 

If you’re still a bit wary, allow us to enlighten you to some of our many procedures in place at Forged to ensure you leave with all your fingers and toes!

  • One person throws in a lane at a time, and the lanes are fenced in to prevent axes from bouncing into other alleys. 
  • We are strict on our safety rules. Especially our policy that no player may retrieve an axe while another player throws, even in a separate alley. This is to prevent a stray axe that may bounce toward the fencing from hurting anyone.
  • All players must wear closed-toed shoes. Flip-flops don’t really suit the lumberjack look anyway. Not only to prevent accidental injuries due to dropping axes but also to avoid splinters as there are often wood scraps within the alleys
  • As much as we love a cold beer and can send you in the right direction after your axe-throwing, we are not licensed and do not allow you to bring your own alcohol. Coordination is important in axe-throwing, so anything that lessens yours is not a good idea. This being said, there are quite of few establishments that thrive on being a dive bar/axe throwing warehouse-type party. These venues serve responsibly and ensure axes aren’t being thrown by intoxicated guests. 

So, to answer your question, yes, axe-throwing is safe. It has its inherent risks but also has procedures and protocol in place to avoid any incident. When you show up sober with closed-toed shoes and listen to the safety brief, you’re good to go. 

Fun Facts About Axe Throwing 

  • The National Axe Throwing Federation estimates league members and drop-ins combined have thrown about 20 million axes since the sport came into popularity, 20 million!
  • A perfect score is 81. A pretty tough goal to reach considering most players who start set their sights on getting 25 points!
  • Only three females have ever been recorded throwing a perfect 81, so girls, get throwing and help make history!
  • Just like how dart players covet their own darts, bowlers lug around a 10-pound ball, and billiards pros swear by their cue, the top-dogs in axe throwing have their own axes. They must adhere to certain standards of length, width and weight. 

Time To Give it a Try!

What are you waiting for? You definitely know more now than any other beginner. Tie up your runners, grab your plaid shirt and find out why a backyard goof-off is now an internationally recognized league and a top activity for all ages (once you get your tenth birthday under your belt!).

Axe-throwing is perfect for a corporate party, a birthday celebration, a bachelorette party. From around $35 per person for an hour (on average, group rates apply at most places and you also may have the option to buy out a venue), you can have a party to remember. 

Axe throwing may be a brand new concept to you and your friends, but it has been emerging for the last decade and is now a well-established, internationally recognized sport, and a hell of a lot of fun.