Winter is upon us and, while the weather forces us indoors, there’s still a lot of fun to be had. In the summer of 2018, Victoria got their first axe-throwing club, and a year later Nanaimo got its very own.
The craze of axe-throwing has taken the country by storm. There’s nothing to release the combination of exasperation, fury, rage, and aggression (things a lot of university students have bottled up by the case) quite like hurling a medieval weapon across the room.
Nanaimo’s Axe and Grind is located at 225 Terminal Ave—next to Devlin Electric Sign underneath the Bastion Street bridge. From the outside, you might never anticipate the caged arena just beyond the front door.
The caged arena being their lanes, to be clear, each with a red bullseye at the end of them. But to make it to the barrels of axes just waiting to be launched there are a few requirements that even the most expert axe-wielder has to pass.
The first is a liability waiver, which is fairly standard for thrilling experiences. Accompanying the form are a few simple rules, written out on a chalkboard, the most important of which is to not point an axe at your friends. Like any quest that challenges mental and physical fitness, the second thing you must do is to come to terms with the fact that you will never be as mighty as the Lumber Jane giant painted on the wall—though you may come close.
Next, it’s batters up. Axe and Grind has an amazing team of professional coaches who will train you in finding the bullseyes. Or, at least getting the point of your axe to stay in the wooden planks.
“You gotta find your sweet spot, and stay there,” advises Aidan, the manager of Nanaimo’s location. “Just use small adjustments to get there.”
There’s more to finding your sweet spot than simply chucking a sharp object (namely, the axe) into a bullseye. With a practiced move and a bit of finesse, it’s all about using body momentum to get a single rotation and the sweet, sweet thud of landing in the target.
The boards get completely destroyed after a couple of hours, but the coaches fix them right up and pop a new one in place when they get worn down. A little sharpie, so you can find where to aim, a spritz or two of water so the wood splinters smaller and is easier to sink the blade into, a touch of luck, and you’ll be golden.
When it comes to axes, there are the standard practice ones that Axe and Grind provides. They’re regulation handled and weighted to teach all kinds of people how to throw. But there are fancy ones too, used by skilled coaches to throw trick shots like the underhand throw, the double rotation, or the one-handed. But don’t try those at home, or in the club, until you’ve mastered the beginning steps.
Students at Vancouver Island University might recognize the mobile unit from 2019’s FROSH week, or, more recently, as a Stress Buster. Where, between running from the library and classes, students could try their hand at the pen’s more lethal cousin: the axe.
The mobile unit, which homes two sets of targets and caged lanes, has travelled across Vancouver Island to be a featured event at concerts, like Sunfest, and other events and parties. Just imagine it set up at a wedding: the quintessential Canadian get-together.
Bowling and darts professionals hold competitions, leagues, and tournaments—and axe throwing is no different. Like darts, a round of competitive axe throwing can take a wide range of focuses: there’s your standard 10- and 30-throw games to get the highest tally you can; round-the-clock, where, you guessed it, you peg the rings in order, and similar to darts’ 01, you can start the points at 101 and work your way down to zero.
Axe and Grind is part of the World Axe Throwing League, which offers standardized rules and regulations to the sport. “Our vision,” the WATL’s website reads, “is to prove that indoor axe throwing isn’t just a unique experience; it can be a competitive sport.”
As part of the WATL, Nanaimo now has its very own way to be involved with the international community. On Wednesday nights, Axe and Grind hosts Nanaimo’s league. It is currently an informal start-up, but in January, they’ll be partaking in the official league.
“[Being] part of the WATL [allows] you to see where you’re ranked world-wide, against everybody,” Aidan said, “Two people are throwing at the same time. They’re throwing against each other, but you’re playing yourself. We put in the points on the app, so everyone can log in and see their score and their standing. Really what you’re trying to do is get the best points for you.”
With the passing of the fall semester classes and exams, students at VIU are bound to have a bit of pent-up aggression. There’s no better way to let that out than a bit of friendly competition with your friends.
When you’re done throwing axes, having either worn your shoulders out or beat the snot out of the scoreboard, they also have an arcade, pool table, and television. The arcade offers its own competitions—right now they’re hosting a high score tournament for Soul Calibur II, one of their 15 vintage video games, where the top four gamers will go head-to-head for three tiers of prizes. If axe throwing isn’t your sport, Quazards Arcades has got you covered; there’s bound to be a game that takes your fancy.
Luckily enough, Axe and Grind offers a discount to students who can show their student ID, and an even bigger savings to students who have the deals app. They also have a Tuesday night deal: Date Night, because who doesn’t want to flex their muscle and precision in front of their potential beau?
Like any sport, there are a few valuable catch-phrases you’re going to want to learn before heading in:
- “It’s like bowling, but with axes.” (Substitute “bowling” with “darts” depending on the crowd.)
- “Once that first axe hits the board, you’re hooked.”
- “You’re throwing against other people, but really you’re playing against yourself.”