Why, What Do You Do on Sunday Night?
My whole life I’ve participated in sports that are slightly left of centre. For example, I grew up show jumping, fencing, and air pistol shooting (at one point doing all in the same day, plus swimming and running - modern pentathlon). So, when I was introduced to the sport of axe throwing a few months ago I knew I had to give it a shot. I’ve been at it for six weeks now, and I think it’s fair to say that I’m hooked.
The premise of the sport is simple: it’s a series of head to head competitions where players throw small hatchets at a wooden target from about 12 feet away, and try to get the hatchet to stick in the wood. It’s 5 points for a bullseye, 3 points if you land it in the circle around the bullseye, 1 point if you land it in the next circle, and 7 points if you hit one of the two tiny black dots in the top left and right corners of the target (called a “clutch” shot). Mind you, you only get those 7 points if you call the clutch before you throw, and if you miss it but still hit a 5, 3, or 1, well, you get nothing. Except laughed at. Also, if there’s a tie game, you have to throw “Big Axe,” which is, not surprisingly, an axe about the size of Peter Dinklage. The first to stick Big Axe wins the match. It looks a little something like this:
I throw with about 26 other people, and I’m quite comfortably occupying 27th place. As it turns out, axe throwing is really fucking hard. Fundamentally, it’s all about muscle memory; find a stance and throw that works, and stick with it. There’s just one small problem - everyone I throw with is incredibly nice. I have to admit, I had trepidations when I first joined the league that the type of people who throw axes for sport are also the type of people who brush their teeth with steel wool and eat babies for breakfast. How very wrong I was. In fact, everyone is so nice that they can’t help but give me, the new girl rocking the last place standing, a ton of advice as to how I can improve my game. Stand closer, move back, throw with one hand, throw with both hands, drink some more (note: we drink and throw axes, but we do not get drunk and throw axes), PUT YOUR BACK INTO IT.
I had tried all of the permutations and combinations of advice above and, frustratingly, still wasn’t having much luck getting my axe to stick in the wood. Then, a viking took me under his wing. Seriously - this guy grew up in Finland, is about 7 feet tall, and has a braided goatee. Also, his name starts with a “J” but is pronounced like it starts with a “Y” - totally a viking thing. All he’s missing is the hat with the horns. Anyway, he said my first problem was that my axe wasn’t sharp enough. He took the grinder to it, sparks flew, and as you can see from the picture below, it is more than sharp enough now:
Next, he told me exactly where I need to stand, why I should throw one-handed and not two, and why it’s important to put your whole body into the throw, not just your arm. The result? I hammered my first clutch shot tonight AND won a Big Axe tie-breaker. Next? Representing Team Canada in the axe throwing event at the Olympic Games, obviously (or at the very least, lobbying to have axe throwing become an Olympic sport).
I’m met with mixed reactions when I tell people that I spend my Sunday nights hurling axes at wooden targets among one of the most wonderfully mixed bag of people I’ve had the fortune of meeting. Some people think it’s cool and want to come check it out, and then there are those that just roll their eyes. The latter tend to be the same people that play on dodgeball teams and enjoy TV shows like The Bachelor, but to each his own. All I know is that my Sunday nights have never been better, and after this evening, I may have moved up to 26th place. Small wins.
And now, for the pièce de résistance, my axe (hand painted, kinda proud….)