Got an axe to grind? One might think that axes are only for chopping wood. Or pulling a Lizzie-Borden. But not anymore. Axe throwing is the latest craze and I had the great fortune of being invited to throw blades at Urban Axes — Cincinnati’s newest hot spot in Over-the-Rhine.
I’ll admit I was a little nervous. Not so much about throwing the axes, but wondering if I’d be embarrassingly bad at it. I wondered if I should do some upper body workouts first to build my arm muscles. All I could envision was throwing an axe and having it land a few feet in front of me, or worse — too close to other axe-throwers. I used to play darts and knew that it could be a little dangerous to play next to bad players, but axes could really do some damage!
I needn’t have worried at all. Axe throwing was fun, challenging, and didn’t require any special muscle strength at all.
Axe throwing is not a free-for-all-keep-throwing-and-you’ll-hit-something kind of outing. It’s a structured game with a coach there to assist the players and ensure that everyone plays safely.
My friend Jeff and I were immediately put at ease with our coach, Dena. She explained that it wasn’t about physical strength at all. We’d be throwing 1.5-pound, 14-inch axes inside a caged off area. We could throw overhead with two hands, or one hand, if that felt more comfortable. We both chose to throw two-handed, so Dena showed us where to grip the handle, how to hold the axe, and which stance we should each use since I am right-handed and Jeff is left-handed.
We got comfortable in our stances and then one at a time, we lobbed our axes toward the well-worn target. Our goal? To “break paint” — which translates to sticking the axe in the board inside one or across one of the painted lines. Then, if most of your blade is inside the ring, you get the point equivalent for that ring.
There are 5 throws per game and 3 games per match. A “perfect” game is 5 bullseye, but there’s also something called a “supernatural” which is 4 bullseyes and a “clutch.” The clutch is earned by hitting one of the top two small dots at either side of the top of the board, similar to the high-scoring rings in skeeball. You can earn 7 points by getting a clutch. I had to aim for those quite a few times because Jeff kept scoring more than me and it was my only chance to win. But alas — I choked on the clutch.
We played several matches with Dena by our side, watching our throws and advising us to tilt our handles different ways before release so that our blades would hit the board at the right angle to stick. Throwing the axes is not about throwing them hard; it’s all about the release.
While we threw, we got a couple of beers from the bar and learned all about the leagues they offer. Dena shared that most people are really there to have fun, not take it too seriously. In fact, they have a group of moms who joined the league as a way to get away and socialize with their friends every week and have some fun throwing axes. I love that idea and immediately thought of a few girlfriends I might invite to join a league with me.
Could I become a real “Bad Axe” at this sport? Maybe! I had good games and bad, but I got better and more comfortable as the night went on. It was great fun and something different to do. I have no doubt the popularity of Urban Axes will increase quickly. I can’t wait to go back!
Have you tried throwing axes yet?