Axe-throwing has come to D.C.

Must be getting close to Xmas to put this one in. There's something immensely satisfying about the thud and thwack a four-pound axe makes when it loops through the air and sticks onto a piece of wood. Especially when it's a bull's eye. Axe throwing, long a sport of choice for lumberjacks and Canadians, could become Washington's new blowing-off-steam activity of choice, with multiple axe-throwing venues opening in the next few months. The first to arrive is Bad Axe Throwing, a Canadian-born chain with 19 locations, including one that debuted last week near Echostage in Northeast D.C.

Competitive axe-throwing is an actual thing, and apparently, it's best done with beer. During a preview visit, Bad Axe wasn't much more than a bare-bones warehouse decked out with raw Home Depot supplies. The lower half of one wall was covered in plywood, then topped with heavier boards painted with large circular targets, similar to dartboards. Each pair of targets was in its own “lane,” which looked like a horse stall, separated from neighbouring ones by a high wooden wall with a higher chain-link fence. I felt like I had stumbled into a lumberjack fight club.

“You don't have to be a lumberjack to work here,” said Nick Jahl, 24, who instructed me in the art of axe throwing, “but we have a lot of beards and flannel in the company.” (He checked both boxes himself.) I've never thrown an axe before, and as my lesson got underway, I was admittedly skittish about them, moving well out of range as other attendees swung the 16-inch hatchet behind their heads and flung it at the target 12 feet away. Would one of us drop the sharp blade on our foot? Would an axe miss the target and rebound into another person's legs?

Short answer: No. After three or four throws, I began consistently hitting the target, even nailing a few bull's-eyes, and quickly understood why axe-throwing is trending. It's much more exhilarating and primal than target shooting: You aren't pulling a trigger that starts a reaction that leads to a bullet hitting a target. You're using your own strength to propel the axe forward, and you feel it in your muscles afterward — even the next day.

Photo: Nick Jahl, an ax-throwing coach at Bad Axe Throwing in Northeast D.C., removes an ax from a wooden target. (Photo by Fritz Hahn/The Washington Post)


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