Axe man: Winnipeg coach helps others experience joy of axe throwing
'I get to throw axes for work. How many people can say that?' says coach helping to popularize social sport
We've all been told to not throw sharp objects.
Except, perhaps, for Dan Blair. Better known as "Big Dan," he's a coach in axe throwing and runs the Bad Axe Throwing facility in Winnipeg.
"I get to throw axes for work. How many people can say that?" he says.
Axe throwing is the newest social sport, and even has its own coaches like "Big Dan."
At 6-1", 230 pounds and with a bushy black beard, 32-year-old Blair lives up to the name.
Indoor axe throwing is exactly what you would think — participants throw axes at targets in a monitored, secure indoor facility. Think of axe throwing as an alternative to darts, with slightly pointier objects.
And it's gaining in popularity.
The Burlington-based Bad Axe began in 2014 and has since expanded to nine locations across Canada, including its Winnipeg facility, which opened in April of 2016.
There are also two Bad Axe locations in the U.S. (in Chicago and Indianapolis) and five more opening this summer.
Blair and his staff at Bad Axe Throwing teach people how to throw axes safely, and ensure people have fun doing it. He got the gig when friends saw the job posted online and told him to apply, since it was right up his alley.
"I'm pretty much into anything that has a sharp edge to it — knives, axes, arrows, swords. Plus I'm a bush boy at heart," he says.
And Blair has compiled quite the collection of sharp things. "I'm probably at around 120 right now — a mix of knives, swords and a few axes," he says.
Being a collector of sharp items, Blair says being a master axe thrower is a dream job. "I'm not going to lie, I love this job. It's a blast," he explains.
"If I'm having a bad day, I'll come in when no one is throwing, and I get to vent and just relax."
Blair says the two main misconceptions with the sport are that it's difficult and unsafe.
"The only way you'll get hurt is if you're not safe with it and don't follow common sense," Blair says. "It's honestly not that hard at all."
Once you sign a safety waiver, Blair and the other coaches will run down the rules, with the main one being not to retrieve an axe when another person is throwing.
Being around splintered pieces of wood and sharpened axes, Blair says there's a possibility you'll either get a splinter or slight knick.
"It comes with the sport," he says. "It's like going up to a hockey player and asking, 'Have you ever been hurt?' as they smile with no teeth."
Not just for bearded dudes
As for who's throwing the axes, Blair said it's not only guys with beards who are enjoying this pastime. This fast-growing social sport has become a go-to activity for adults looking to book a birthday party or corporate event. Think of it as team-building with a lumberjack twist — though plaid shirts are optional.
People of all ages and backgrounds have come in to try axe throwing, Blair said.
"The youngest we've had in here throwing is five years old," he explains. "We've had guests in wheelchairs throw axes, and I've even had an 80-year-old grandmother in here."
For Blair, one participant sticks out in his mind. "I had one gentleman in here — very nice, very polite, calm and also very 100 per cent blind," he says.
Blair said the participant was nervous at first, but once he traced out Blair's movements, he felt more at ease.
"I had him hold the axe and helped him with his aim. He landed about 50 per cent of his shots," he said.
"He's still my pride and joy for teaching."
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