Nfld. & Labrador

The new darts? Popularity of axe-throwing grows with two new N.L. lounges

Axe-throwing is becoming a popular pastime in communities across the province, with lounges in Corner Brook and Gander joining one in St. John's.

New axe-throwing lounges opened this summer in Corner Brook, Gander

Shannon Morgan, owner of Odin's Axe in Corner Brook, jokes, 'There are more axes thrown here than in a lumber yard and a lot more split wood.'

The thump of an axe driving into lumber is met with applause and fist pumps, an emotional reaction as visceral as the disappointment of a hurled axe connecting with the floor instead of its intended target.

The emotion that comes along with the sport is part of what's attracting people to axe-throwing lounges in Newfoundland and Labrador. Two new lounges in Corner Brook and Gander are attracting visitors, just as dart-throwing leagues have long provided both a social gathering and a competitive sport for people across the province.

"It gives someone a chance to get out, get active and be social," said Shannon Morgan, owner of Odin's Axe in Corner Brook, which opened July 5.

"It's a great place for people to come down and relieve some stress."

Axe-throwing lounges like his offer a place for people to get out of the house and experience something different from the regular weekend entertainment, Morgan said.

Axe-throwing lounges have cropped up in Corner Brook and Gander this summer. (Troy Turner/CBC)

The Viking theme, featuring an oversized wooden throne patrons can sit on for a photo, is all his, he said, but the business itself got a lot of inspiration from Jack Axes, an axe-throwing lounge in St. John's that opened in 2016 and will soon open its first franchise location in Charlotte, N.C.

Growing interest in axe throwing

Jack Axes founder and co-owner Adrian Beaton says axe-throwing has seen a swell of international interest in the years since the company opened in St. John's, with the increased attention fuelled in part by televised coverage of axe-throwing competitions. 

So what's the secret?

"It's hard to explain because it seems so simple, but it really is a cathartic experience," said Beaton.

"It's an experience-based audience now."

Jack Axes has 60 to 70 people playing in weekly in-house axe-throwing leagues, and the company is a founding member of the World Axe Throwing League, which host competitions throughout the globe.

Jack Axes owner Adrian Beaton has seen his membership numbers spike in just two years. (Jeremy Eaton/CBC)

Beaton said if he compared his original business plan with how the lounge operates now, it wouldn't be recognizable.

"Our business plan had to basically be thrown out the window and we had to start over again," he said. "Nothing was what we predicted. It's much larger-scale."

That interest continues to spread throughout the province. Along with Odin's Axe, the Axe Shed opened in Gander on July 29.

Beaton doesn't view these lounges as competition. Instead, he said, he welcomes the opportunity for more people in the province to be introduced to axe-throwing culture.

"I'm really happy because Newfoundland is so isolated from everything, always, and there's a huge axe-throwing culture on the mainland," he said. "I hope they both do well."

How to throw the perfect axe

Christian Morgan first began throwing axes socially in St. John's. Upon moving to Corner Brook, where he graduated with a theatre degree, Christian now finds himself making a living teaching the sport.

"An hour at this and anybody can land that axe," Morgan — no relation to the business's owner — said at Odin's Axe.

Once safety precautions are met, Morgan says axe throwers need to choose a stance that fits them best — one that's steady and secure. Then it's a matter of ensuring your arm goes through the correct fluid motion to aim and release the axe, he said.

"It's all on the one side and it's a straight pull down rather than a throw forward," he said. "I use the analogy of a rope pull. If you raise a sail, you've got to pull it straight down."

He said the elbow should be bent at around 90 degrees and the arm must be straight out from the shoulder. Axe throwers should aim with their throwing fists, he said, and not the head of the axe, which many start off doing.

"If you do that, the throw goes straight down and nobody wants that. It's embarrassing," he said.

Once you release the arm, you need to be careful not to flick the wrist too much, and then you judge your distance from the target to compensate, if needed.

"You put it all together and you should land that axe," Morgan said.

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