I heard the intimidating thwacks of axes meeting wood from outside the warehouse doors of Bad Axe Throwing. The sounds stood out sharply from the residential area of the Blandtown neighborhood in Atlanta, echoing through the cracked garage door. Going into my first attempt at axe throwing, I tried to keep an open mind. Despite my efforts, I was nervous about everything that could go wrong if you handed me an axe. Fortunately, the night proved to be safe and minimally embarrassing.
Axe throwing has emerged as an unexpected new activity for millenials looking to relieve stress in a new (or, more accurately, old-fashioned) way. With a similar feel to a shooting range, the activity involves throwing axes at wooden targets in individual lanes. Since Mario Zelaya founded Bad Axe Throwing in Canada in 2014, the company has seen surprising success, as demonstrated by the popularity of Bad Axe’s Atlanta location. There are 17 locations of Bad Axe Throwing throughout North America, and the Atlanta location opened this past September. Axe Master and manager of the Atlanta location Christian Johnson believes “with axe throwing the playing field is completely level,” adding that “it’s very liberating to throw a sharp object at a board. It’s a great stress reliever.”
Bad Axe was bustling with energy. The warehouse interior is brightly lit and features colorful graffiti on the walls. Upbeat throwback music played in the background, broken sporadically by throwers’ triumphant cheers.
After I walked into the warehouse, an employee demonstrated proper axe throwing form and silently judged my first few embarrassing attempts. After the mini-lesson, he set me free to practice. The majority of the space is divided into wooden lanes. The whiteboards on the side of each lane allowthrowers to keep score and compete with one another. Although the two men with whom I shared the walk-in lane looked like they belonged in an axe throwing warehouse, a diverse group of people populated the other lanes. Johnson said the variety of individuals they see is “phenomenal.”
“We get all kinds of groups of ladies who just walk in and want to throw axes,” Johnson said. “Also, little ones that I’ve gotten in here, like seven to 10, have picked it up very quickly.”
I was on a steep learning curve. Of the two available axe sizes in my lane, I found the heavier easier to handle. For my first throw, I held the axe with both hands behind my head. I arched my back and swung my arms forward, releasing the axe at the apex of the arc. After moderate success with the first style of throw, the staff encouraged me to try underhanded and one-handed throws. Johnson had told me there was a certain satisfaction to hitting the wooden targets, and he was right.
Walk-ins cost $20 per hour for individuals, and $35 per person for two-and-a-half hours if booked ahead of time. Though participants must sign a waiver, the activity has no age restrictions. Johnson said the location primarily hosts group events, including a surprising number of bachelorette parties.
Axe throwing was empowering. The staff was friendly and helpful, and the diverse crowd and welcoming atmosphere surprised me. If you are in need of a Valentine’s Day plan, or if your date doesn’t go as planned and you need to blow off steam, check their weekly walk-in hours, which are posted every Monday. Twenty dollars may seem expensive, but remember that axe throwing is a far more exciting date than a movie.
CORRECTION (2/8/18 at 8:35 p.m.): The article initially said that $35 purchased unlimited time at Bad Axe Atlanta. The article has been updated to reflect that $35 actually purchases a two-and-a-half hour session.