When I told people I was going to try axe throwing, I was met mostly with confused expressions. While in America the target sport has fast become a popular pastime, the UK has yet to catch up. That is about to change, however, as the world’s largest urban axe throwing company, Bad Axe, has just opened its first venue outside of North America.
I wasn’t sure what to expect when I went to take a tour of the new venue, on the top floor of Boxpark Wembley. Large wooden targets line two of the walls, separated by chain link partitions, and there are tables and bar stools behind a red safety line drawn on the floor. There’s also a licensed bar in the corner of the room which serves bar snacks alongside alcoholic and soft drinks.
Axe throwing is being billed as bowling 2.0, an exciting new way of celebrating birthdays, Christmas, hen parties and stag does. They even host corporate and team-building events. Groups that book in advance secure their own range of two targets, along with a coach to teach them, but walk-ins are welcome, too.
When Tom, one of the directors of Bad Axe UK, brings out the axes, my reaction is a mix of fear and excitement. The axes are only small, but the edges are wickedly sharp. I’m reassured by the knowledge that, of the 700,000 customers who have visited Bad Axe venues, there have been zero injuries.
It’s not about the strength with which you throw, Tom tells me, but about the technique. This is why trained coaches are on hand to make sure everyone gets the most out of the experience – and to ensure that safety comes first.
After a few poor one-handed throws, Tom advises that I use two hands, holding the axe back between my shoulder blades before bringing it over my head and throwing it at the target. It sinks, with a satisfying thud, into the soft wood. The sensation is immensely satisfying and immediately makes me want to have another go.
It’s clear that Tom and Adam, directors of Bad Axe UK alongside Bad Axe founder Mario Zelaya, are passionate about their customers and about creating a fun experience. They are also aware that, these days, a company’s popularity rests on more than just the experience it provides – hence Bad Axe’s impressive eco-credentials. When targets have become too chipped to use, they are recycled; there is canned water behind the bar to save on plastic, and Boxpark has its own recycling programme.
By the time I left Bad Axe, I was already planning on organising a day to come back. People are increasingly looking for new and exciting ways to spend time with their friends that doesn’t involve going to bars or pubs. Look at the popularity of escape rooms, which have spread rapidly across the UK in the last few years, or the introduction of treasure hunts across London.
Surrounded by a group of friends, axe throwing would be a fun and unique way to spend an afternoon or evening. With a competitive element introduced by games led by the coaches, it’s a sport everyone can enjoy. Tom told me that the first group of people he taught axe throwing to, was a group of eight-year-old girls. Apparently, they loved it.
And if you discover that you’re particularly talented, you can take part in the axe throwing league and participate in next year’s world championship.
For more information and to book, call 020 8103 0300 or visit badaxethrowing.com