I, Ax Thrower
WHY YOU SHOULD CARE
Because, well, you never know.
By Sarah Fielding
At the beginning of 2017, my friends and I decided on a last-minute trip to Canada. In the middle of January. Considering that, up until this point, I wasn’t fond of Montreal, our chosen destination, and have a genuine hatred of the cold, I’m not sure where the enthusiasm for this idea came from. Nonetheless, the four of us convened in my hometown of Albany, New York, piled into my car and drove the four hours north to Canada.
After parking the car and walking through the thin layer of ice that coated just about everything in sight, we reached our hostel. Apart from the guy whose bed was surrounded by five half-empty 2-liter bottles of Coke, our mixed room appeared to be filled with a group of regular people. Later in the day, we met another roommate, an Australian from Perth who had been on a worldwide journey.
On our first night, the Australian told us he had just gone ax throwing with a guy he had been dating while staying in Montreal. We read the online description of the activity as a great bonding activity, or therapy to get over an ex. But first, our Australian friend invited us to go with him and his friend to catch a show.
When we got there and realized it was guys’ night at the venue, my friends and I said goodbye and left. On our walk back to the hostel, we recalled the ax-throwing tale and decided to stop by Rage Montreal, the ax-throwing venue.
The key to ax throwing is ensuring no one is standing behind you. Or in front of you. Or just way too close to you.
When we were only a few blocks away, a guy approached us and asked if we knew where his hostel was — he’d been walking up and down the street and failed to locate it. His hostel turned out to be the same one we were staying at. When we explained that we’d be heading there but we were going to go throw some axes first and did he want to join, he — skeptically, surprisingly — agreed.
“Learn to throw an ax and prepare for a zombie apocalypse, impress your loved one or blow some steam off.” This was the tagline to end all taglines; seriously, if ax throwing had been offered as a sport in college, I would have been first in line to sign up. We took up two lanes at the space, after which one of the instructors demonstrated the correct form for throwing.
It involved taking the ax by both hands and lifting it above your head, pushing your butt out and then throwing yourself forward at the same time as you released the ax. The lanes are made up of thick gates on either side (to ensure no one gets hit with a loose ax), with a wood target board at one end. The key to ax throwing is ensuring no one is standing behind you. Or in front of you. Or just way too close to you. All too often, we swung our axes behind us as we prepared to throw them, and it wouldn’t have been pretty if one of our friends had been close by.
We started off with a small ax — about a foot in length, it was more hatchet than ax, and it couldn’t have weighed more than a couple of pounds. We all sucked, with the exception of one of my friends. I’ve known her since fifth grade and it was only thanks to this trip that we discovered she is an ax-throwing prodigy. The space actually has a seasonal league of ax throwers, something my friend could have easily joined if she lived in the area.
In no time at all, she was putting everyone to shame, repeatedly hitting the target with almost every throw. On the other hand, I hit the target twice out of the 30-plus throws I made. Both times, I jumped up and down, filled with pride. The biggest disappointment came when the ax hit the target only to immediately fall out and onto the floor.
Having more confidence in us than we did in ourselves, our instructor brought us two more types of axes to try, both much bigger than the first. These looked like the axes you picture lumberjacks heading into the woods with. Seriously, they appeared sharp enough to make a real dent in any tree they took on. Or ex. Or zombie.
I was understandably terrified. Supposedly these were supposed to be easier than the first, something I didn’t believe. I returned to my small ax, no longer as intimidated by it. We stayed for much longer than the time we had been allotted, the five of us continuing to try our hand at mastering ax throwing while not murdering anyone else there trying to do the same.
At evening’s end? No dead friends, exes or zombies were in evidence. But some newfound edge weapon skills? Plenty to be had by all.
- Sarah Fielding, OZY Author Contact Sarah Fielding