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Axe explosion: Is axe-throwing here to stay?

by Christian Pascoal

“What people don’t realize about axe throwing,” said Kristi Collins, co-owner of Axe Throwing Tampa. “Is that it’s been around a very long time, like literally hundreds of years.”

Collins added jokingly, “People just used to do it for survival, now we do it for fun.”

For those unfamiliar with this new form of entertainment, axe throwing is exactly what it sounds like. You go to a range with lanes and targets and you and your group throw axes or hatchets at the targets. It has become popular as both a form of leisure activity and competitive sport, with ranges popping up consistently over the last few years.

Most establishments have coaches for every session to teach the newcomers the basics of the sport, including form and safety. Prices for these ranges can vary anywhere from $25 to $40 per person for a one to two-hour session and many places require that you be at least 13-years-old.

The history of axe throwing can be traced all the way back to the days of the Vikings, but modern-day axe throwing as a sport really began in Canada in the 1940’s. Collins, like many Americans, first discovered the sport on a trip to Canada with her husband.

“We took a trip to Canada a few years ago and it was just so cold out and we were looking for something to do,” said Collins. “That’s how we found an indoor axe throwing range and first experienced the sport.”

Collins immediately saw a market for an indoor range in Florida because “people are always looking for something to do to get out of the heat,” so her and her husband decided to make an investment in this emerging trend by opening Axe Throwing Tampa back in 2017.

There are two different types of axe throwing ranges: those that serve alcohol, and those that don’t. Axe Throwing Tampa is a non-alcoholic range because of the liability factor.

“Safety is our number one priority, which is why we don’t serve alcohol,” said Collins. “Impaired people make bad decisions and there’s an added liability and risk factor that comes with that.”

Obviously not all axe throwing range owners share this same philosophy, including Matt Donahue, owner of Stumpy’s Hatchet House in Orlando.

“I don’t see a big difference in the two types of ranges,” said Donahue. “Realistically, someone could easily show up to a non-alcoholic range intoxicated and no one would know. Safety is our top concern here and we make sure no one is observed and can complete the activity without creating a hazard for themselves or others.”

Stump’s Hatchet House has been open for over two months and Donahue says they have never had any safety issues in that time.

Non-alcoholic ranges tend to be more competitive and serious, while ranges that serve liquor are usually more laid back and fun, as if you were at a bowling alley.

“I prefer to go to a range that serves booze,” said Anthony Rose, a 22-year-old community college student who likes to axe throw. “My friends and I have tried out both kinds of ranges, and we had a lot more fun at the range with alcohol for obvious reasons.”

Many college students probably agree with Rose’s sentiment, but there are some younger people out there who are truly passionate about the competitive aspect of the sport.

“I got into competitive axe throwing about a year ago and I`ve been hooked ever since,” said Jesse Mcknight, a 22-year old Rowan University student and aspiring axe thrower. “For that reason, I only go to real serious ranges where I can work on my craft in peace.”

Mcknight is hoping to one day participate in the World Axe Throwing League (WATL), an organization that holds axe throwing tournaments throughout the year across the country.

Since its founding in 2017, WATL has amassed over 2500 members and hosts several big money tournaments. The league championship is held each December with the winner receiving a surprisingly large amount of money in the $3500 prize purse.

“People are looking for something fun to do that won’t take up their whole night,” said Collins. “We can offer that, along with an exhilarating experience you can’t get doing most other activities.”

Both Collins and Donahue expressed similar opinions on why people are becoming drawn to axe throwing in recent years.

“My research into the market tells me that axe throwing will explode over the next 18 months,” said Collins. “Until we reach a point where the market becomes oversaturated with ranges, then those late to the party will end up closing if they don`t have a business plan to counteract this.”

Collins referenced other trends, such as frozen yogurt and CrossFit, as examples of trends that became oversaturated and caused many businesses to fail as a result.

She believes axe throwing will ultimately hit this point but bounce back and become a mainstay leisure activity in the same vain as bowling or darts.

Christian Pascoal can be reached at christian.pascoal@spartans.ut.edu

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