Axe throwing has long been a staple of lumberjack competitions across North America, from Oregon’s Bay Area Lumberjack Competition to Maine’s Fryeburg Fair, but unless you’re a woodsman yourself, you probably haven’t had the chance to compete. But lately, something’s been going on north of the border, and ordinary people have been flocking to axe throwing leagues for their chance to hurl hatchets into wooden targets.
Bianca Bosker’s Atlantic piece on the resurgence of axe throwing as a recreational sport in Canada has got Americans talking and wondering where they can join in. The original league, Backyard Axe Throwing League (BATL) was featured heavily in the piece, and this fall, they’re closer to aspiring American lumberjacks than ever before. After introducing the sport to urban audiences in Toronto, they began opening locations across the country, and starting in the fall of 2016, they will be operating a new location in downtown Niagara Falls (on the Canadian side). If you’re in upstate New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, or other states in the region, you can now throw some axes in Niagara Falls at BATL on your next trip.
The game is as thrilling as it sounds, and its biggest advocates claim that it’s a way to reconnect to something more primal, a way to channel their inner aggression. Others just enjoy using it as a way to vent their stress and frustrations from the work week, coming from all kinds of professional backgrounds. It’s a cathartic experience embraced by many as a healthy way to work out a lot of the negativity in their lives, and it’s also created something of a community out of it. Each BATL location is home to a league of dedicated players, although it’s not mandatory to join the league in order to play.
Axe throwing venues can also be booked for larger groups, and they frequently play host to bachelor and bachelorette parties, so it’s a natural choice for Niagara-bound groups celebrating a friend’s “last weekend of freedom.” It’s great for groups that love sports and want an alternative to the usual shots-and-strip-club party, but afternoon and evening play means there’s still plenty of time to paint the town red after finding the champ in your group of friends. As many bachelor and bachelorette parties take on the unconventional turn of combining them for both of the engaged, axe throwing venues are also a great way to have fun without getting too debauched. Locals, on the other hand, can take advantage of their individual walk-ins, allowing you to get a feel for the pastime before committing to anything. Their league events run once weekly for several months, culminating in a nail-biting playoff tournament, while veteran throwers sometimes hold skills competitions to see who can bring the most style to their game.
The next time you plan your trip to Niagara Falls, don’t miss out on Canada’s favorite new sport. Bring plenty of flannel, closed toe shoes, and don’t forget to follow through.