“It’s not your typical Monday night bowling league,” said Matthew Belanger of Kitchener Bad Axe Throwing.
In recent months, axe throwing has gained increasing momentum across North America, becoming ever more popular as the realm of recreation expands beyond stereotypical sports.
According to Belanger, not only is the emerging sport a lot more fun than the average bowling league, it’s also incredibly simple.
“It is kind of like darts, but with axes,” he said.
From a minimum of 12 feet away from the target, and on the count of three, axe throwers release their axes with the aim of landing them as close as possible to the centre of their respective bullseye for a maximum of five points.
“If one axe hits the target before the other axe has left the other thrower’s hand, it is disqualified,” noted Belanger.
As well, players must at all times respect the 12 foot rule.
Much like darts, the sport is of individuals as each thrower strives to achieve a greater number of points than their opponents.
“It’s everyone out for themselves in that respect,” laughed Belanger.
Simple though the rules may be, there is more tact to the sport than one might expect. In fact, there are a variety of throws which can be employed in order to most effectively aim and strike the target.
“Some people just pick it right up,” said Belanger. “Like a lot of things in life, once you start to get going with it, and you get more and more comfortable with it, you kind of create your own technique.”
“Aside from the competitive aspect, there is a lot more depth to axe throwing…The culture that we’re trying to build around it is very supportive and very community-based,” Belanger said.
“So if someone’s struggling, another participant will come over and… give them tips. It’s really something special to see.”
According to Belanger, this sense of community is even more important than the competitive aspect of the sport.
“Bad Axe Throwing… is more or less just a social gathering, as a matter of getting people out, having a couple [of] drinks, and a good time,” Belanger said. “The competition aspect certainly comes second.”
Since he began working with Bad Axe Throwing two years ago, Belanger has witnessed the growth of the sport from its beginnings. These days, league nights see between 12 and 13 individuals each evening.
Thanks to Bad Axe Throwing CEO, Mario Zelaya, this rapid expansion hasn’t been contained to just Kitchener.
Since beginning the World Axe Throwing League (WATL) only earlier this year, over twenty urban axe throwing companies across four nations have gotten involved in the league.
On the founding of Bad Axe Throwing itself, according to Belanger, rumour has it that the idea for the establishment began during a cottage trip when, alongside friends, Zelaya first attempted axe throwing.
Thrilled at the entertainment of the game, it then dawned on Zelaya to legitimize it as a sport.
Now in its third year of operation, Bad Axe Throwing has just begun its fall season, whereafter the champion and runner-up of the upcoming competitive season will travel to Chicago for finals.
Moving forward, Zelaya has even bigger ambitions, and dreams for the day axe throwing makes it to the world stage.
“[The] Olympics would be the pinnacle,” Belanger said.
“You get the World Axe Throwing League in the Olympics… That’s something else.”