How Britons Halve Stress: Throw in an Ax | sport
On a windy Thursday evening, the sound of deaf ears and loud screams can be heard along the canal in Hackney Wick, east London. They emanate from the Skeeters ax throwing site, named after the famous Native American ax and knife thrower. It might sound baffling, but walk in and the fairy lights – along with coworkers enjoying a social event – soon put you at ease.
“It’s been a stressful year at work, so it seemed like a good social activity,” says Gemma Sutton, a 27-year-old product designer who tried ax throwing for the first time tonight. “It was fun. Most of the things you do in your social activities involve going to a bar – it was good to do something a little different.
Skeeters is just one of many ax throwing venues open or about to open across the UK this year, with many predicting that going out for a night of ax throwing at a target will become the new bowling alley .
Much like bowling, ax throwing involves lanes. Bettors are given axes, though some ranges allow you to bring your own, and learn how to throw them at painted wooden targets with concentric circles and dots. While detailed rules are established by the International Ax Throwing Federation for league and tournament games, for beginners it is basically encouraging them to hit as close as possible to the center of the target’s concentric scoring circles – target is worth five points, outer circles are worth gradually less.
Site owners across the country are talking about a wide variety of launchers. “We’ve had inquiries from the Women’s Institute, Boy Scout groups, software companies,” says Harry Househam, events manager at Ridgeway View Ax Throwing, an outdoor site that opened in the Oxfordshire countryside earlier this month. Back at Skeeters, co-founder Luc van Helfteren says: “It’s incredibly stimulating. Most people are on a level playing field when it comes to ax throwing, ”he says. (Throwing hard is counterproductive if you want your ax to stick.) Software engineer Karun Vinavagan, 26, who is also in social work, says he tried the sport for the first time tonight: “I thought only athletes would do it. be able to do it, but anyone can do it.
It is this democratic nature that many cite as a reason for its popularity: “It is accessible and accessible to children, adults and people with disabilities,” says Adam McCarthy, who hopes to open the Angle Ax Throwing line, the first line of Peterborough, early June. . He has tried “various sports from dodge ball to football and manages to get injured in everything I try.” In contrast, he says, “ax throwing is a kind of cooperative competitive sport.” The cheering support for others’ shots on target certainly makes the session at Skeeters more favorable than fierce.
Elliott Shuttleworth, Managing Director of Boom Battle Bars, which already has sites in Norwich, Cardiff and Liverpool and plans to open 21 new locations across the UK in the near future, highlights how quickly you are improving: ” We think the beauty of the sport is that it’s tough but it’s easy to handle… guests go from the unnecessary to Spartacus within the first 30 minutes.
For some, the allure is escape, with many rooms showing up with Viking helmets or fantasy-inspired puns: Game of Throwing has a location in Newcastle that will soon be followed by others in Chelmsford, Hull and Plymouth.
“It captures people’s imaginations,” Househam says. “You feel like you’re in an episode of Game of thrones, or Ragnar Lothbrok from Vikings, throwing your weapon at your enemies. “
Van Helfteren, one of the three founders who built Skeeters from an abandoned area of concrete and buddleia during the first lockdown, has theories he’s tapping into something deeper. “The act of throwing yourself into yourself is a very human and evolved trait,” he says. Most primates weren’t designed to do “baseball or ax throwing, where you lift your arm over your shoulder … we evolved this as a hunting technique.” In contrast to the Valhalla vibe, he sees sport as calm and zen.
For those concerned about security aspects, Van Helfteren reassures that it is extremely unlikely that anything will go wrong. Skeeters is “built around safety,” he says, with baffles, special floors and specific sized cages, and each session is supervised by a qualified instructor. “A lot of people can be afraid to start. They are afraid the axes are dangerous, ”says Househam. “But once people start throwing, they realize it’s not as dangerous as it looks.”
While Ridgeway has a strict alcohol-free policy, other places are more relaxed. Skeeters do not serve alcohol but allow people to bring their own beer and wine – Van Helfteren points out that they take safety very seriously but says “you can safely throw away after a few drinks”.
Ax throwing has already taken off in Canada and the United States. According to Mario Zelaya, who founded the World Ax Throwing League in 2017, it was a solid partnership with broadcaster ESPN that contributed to the explosion of the sport. In the UK, he says, “ax throwing is still very recent.” But the long-term goal is for it to become widely popular.
Thanks to the pent-up energy during the lockdowns, Zelaya, who also founded Bad Ax Throwing, which added a new location to its Wembley site in Croydon earlier this week, believes “demand for the activity, as a stress relief fun and exercise, will be huge in the months to come ”. Newbies Vinavagan and Sutton corroborate his prediction: the two will be back to try again.