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the occasions lady and

Flying Axes
by Audrey Poff, illustration by Brittney Guest

It may not have been on his wish list, but last month I had the opportunity to surprise Rodney with a unique gift while we were celebrating his birthday – an hour of competitive axe throwing.

Axe throwing has been around since the middle ages, but the old sport is new again and quickly gaining in popularity as new venues open. While enjoying a rare weekend getaway last month, I booked an hour for the two of us at Civil Axe Throwing in Memphis, where participants compete in friendly games by throwing axes. Points are scored by sticking the axe in the target.

Recreational spots where people gather to chuck axes at a bull’s eye (similar to darts, but more intense) gained popularity in Canada in 2015, and the U.S. has been following suit. America’s first axe-throwing facility, Stumpy’s Hatchet House, opened in central New Jersey in 2016. Today, you can find axe-throwing venues all over the country, including Northwest Arkansas.

For one hour on a Sunday afternoon, we threw axes in a lane that included two targets. Similar to escape room bookings, you can book all of the spots in a group or you can be paired with others. Rodney and I were paired with two young women, so the four of us took turns throwing axes – two at a time, side by side. Rodney did well, consistently hitting the target. I came in last, not because my aim was off, but because my throws were a little weak. I lacked the force to get the axe to stick most of the time.

Our first attempt at competitive axe throwing was surprisingly fun and also a decent workout. With only four in our group, Rodney and I had our own target, so we were throwing almost nonstop. It really doesn’t take long to break a sweat when you are hurling hatchets at a target.

Staff members go over rules with participants and demonstrate axe-throwing techniques before the groups are assigned to lanes. For obvious reasons, closed-toe shoes are a requirement. Flip-flops and axes would be a bad idea. Alcohol and axe throwing also seems like a bad mix, but as crazy as it sounds, most axe-throwing venues sell alcoholic beverages.

Other than jabbing a small splinter under my fingernail while retrieving my axe, no one in our lane suffered any injuries. In full disclosure, even though there is a chain-link fence separating the lanes, the sound of axes flying past your head can be alarming.

I’m always searching for new experiences, and our session at Civil Axe did not disappoint. Who knew that sending axes flying through the air could be so exhilarating? We’ll be back, and next time my axe-throwing skills will be stronger.