When my mother-in-law emailed me a link to an article on the new axe throwing craze, I found the idea amusing but stupid. "Psh. I'll never do something that lame," I announced to my husband. "Who the hell would pay money to throw an axe at a wall?"
However, over time, my attitude changed. I was headed to Austin, Texas for a vacation, and I'd read a few blogs that mentioned Urban Axes as a fun place to while away an hour or two. A coworker confided that she found axe throwing invigorating. Perhaps this wasn't the dumbest idea I'd ever heard of.
I'm not alone in wanting to try odd new outings. In comparison to previous generations, millennials prefer to spend their hard earned dough on experiences rather than possessions. We were either in diapers or not born yet during the 1980's "greed is good" phase, and our spending habits reflect this. Traveling, craft beer brewing, and whitewater rafting - while these are all embraced by my generation, they are also omnipresent and we get tired of them quickly. That means companies need to up the ante to keep us interested. Axe throwing fits the bill nicely.
Several weeks after that email my husband and I rolled up to what appeared to be a dusty airport hangar in a less than desirable part of town. Entering through a heavy door emblazoned with the Urban Axes logo, we stepped inside what looked like a sparsely furnished barn filled with half open batting cages. Each half-cage had a hastily constructed wooden target nailed to the back wall, which was covered in battle scars of past hits. Set in between every pair of cages was a frayed stump in which two axes were wedged. There were multiple people dressed in plaid shirts, skinny jeans, and ironic tee-shirts scattered throughout. Clearly, we had discovered the hipster mecca. I felt rather underdressed in my circa 2005 Gap Outlet tank top and powder blue shorts. What a time to be without my "I put the FU in fun" tee. Though underwhelmed by the austerity of the place, we gamely forked over $20 each for an hour session and sat down to wait for our turn at "bat."
The Urban Axe employees were a diverse-looking bunch. One girl sported a shaved head and overalls, several of the men combined man buns with hipster beards, and our trainer was a burly fellow wearing a shirt that said "My other shirt is a beard."
Only you can prevent axe-idents
Zach, as he was called, led us into our roped area where we would begin our session. He first proceeded to go over guidelines for safely handling axes and trading places with other participants. For each pair of cages there were six participants; each person would get approximately 20 minutes of axe throwing time per hour, enjoyed during rotating five-minute sessions. No one was to hand off an axe to anyone else, instead, it was to be jammed into the wooden stump for the next person to grab. He instructed us to grip the axe tightly with both hands, lean back on the right foot and hoist the axe over our head for the windup, then step forward as the momentum would help propel the axe towards the target after we let it go.
While I appreciated the emphasis on safety, I found a few things mildly disconcerting. After going over the safety instructions, Zach informed us that the beer fridge was open for business. Booze and sharp objects didn't seem the most prudent combination, but hey, beer makes everything better, right? Another element that didn't quite augur well was the fact that while there was a half batting cage enclosing the space surrounding the target, there was nothing to stop a wayward axe from slipping from someone's hands during their backswing. I quietly pointed this out to my husband and we edged to the side a few feet in the event a sweaty axe slipped from an inebriated grip. Luckily, my fears were unfounded and we experienced no major incidents.
Let that sucker fly!
When it was my turn, I gripped the axe and went through a few practice swings. It was substantial but was probably under five pounds in weight. I reared back and let it fly…straight into the wall above the target, where it hit with a dull thwack and fell to the ground. As my athletic prowess is, shall we say, underdeveloped, this was an unsurprising outcome. Zach coached me on my subsequent throws, showing me the windup and guiding me on when to let go, which resulted in more than a few solid hits. I ended up hitting the target more than once and even managed a bulls-eye. Much like making firm contact with a baseball, the thunk sound of the axe stuck in the target elicited a warm sense of accomplishment and satisfaction. The cheers from the other participants didn't hurt either.
In what seemed like no time, our hour was finished and Zach thanked us for stopping by. While I don't think I'll be back to let an axe fly any time soon, it was a memorable (and unique) way to wind down an afternoon. To those looking for a way to get in touch with their inner woodsman (without actually chopping wood), I would definitely recommend trying your hand at axe throwing.
With all these millennials flocking to new, weird activities, those craving an experience that is truly unlike any other will have look even harder find the path less traveled. There may very well come a time when naked yoga, cheese rolling, and street sliding could be commonplace. Our generation gets tired of things so quickly (does anyone remember planking?) who knows what weird stuff we'll dream up next.