I recently received a media invitation from Johannesburg In Your Pocket to go axe-throwing in downtown Joburg. How could I refuse? I had never thrown an axe before –- it’s not something one does in normal life, especially not in the middle of the city -– and I’m always up for entertainment that involves medieval imagery and a bit of physical exertion.
Axe-throwing is a real sport, as it turns out –- historically part of lumberjacking competitions, but also a recreational activity for regular people. It makes sense…Who doesn’t have a bit of pent-up anger these days? Throwing axes seems like as good a way as any to let the madness out.
My Axe-Throwing Afternoon
The Joburg axe-throwing company is called Axe-static. Get it? (The axe-related puns are endless: axe-ellent, axe-pert, axe-ceptional, axe-celerate, rel-axe, axe-ident, etc.) The venue is in Selby, an industrial suburb on the edge of the Joburg CBD, in a non-descript building that looked semi-abandoned except for the big Axe-static sign, featuring a Game-of-Thrones-type villain wielding a long, double-sided axe, looming in the doorway.
Throwing axes doesn’t require a ton of infrastructure and the activity itself is simple. The venue is a large, mostly empty room, painted black, with a bunch of rectangular-shaped plywood cubicles inside. Each cubicle has two round, black-and-white targets at the end. Participants stand at the other end of the cubicles, wield their axes, and let fly, hopefully hitting somewhere on the target -– or at least into the wooden wall around the target, which is somehow less embarrassing than watching one’s axe clatter uselessly to the floor.
Before the event I had envisioned hefting a heavy iron axe over my head with both hands, possibly wearing a suit of armour, and grunting with effort as I flung the axe toward the target like a medieval knight in a jousting competition.
In reality, the axes were small –- about the size of a pair of garden clippers –- and light enough to throw easily with one hand. Lifting the axe was not a challenge; the only challenge was getting the axe to go where I wanted it to go.
We all started throwing as soon as we got the green light from Simba, our Axe-static host, and it didn’t seem too hard at first. Most people hit the bulls eye at least a couple of times during our practice session. Some of the more talented throwers -– like my boyfriend Thorsten, who grew up on a farm in Namibia and had apparently thrown a few axes before, albeit not in formal competition -– even hit the small, coveted white dots in the corners of the targets. Everyone was having fun, filming themselves and celebrating as axes sunk into targets with satisfying thunks.
Things got harder after Simba instructed us to divide into teams and actually compete, each person throwing a set number of times and receiving points according to where their axes landed. I bombed in the competition, hitting the inner rings of the target only two out of five times.
The high scorer on each team was promoted to the finals, in which three elite axe-throwers fought to the death. (Just kidding.)
Thorsten, whose self-assigned axe-throwing name was Axe-skies (sorry, this name will only make sense to South Africans) made it to the finals and was the only competitor to hit the corner dot in one of his throws, which thrilled me as his girlfriend. He also had to throw the axe blindfolded, which was not successful and terrified me as his girlfriend. Fortunately Thorsten survived, but he didn’t win: Axe-skies was narrowly defeated by a competitor named Axe-imus Prime. Everyone went home happy.
Axe-static is currently open by appointment only. To book, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call +27-61-864-2659. An axe-throwing session costs R290 per person.