Come the weekend, most people look forward to a relaxing few days spent vegging out on the sofa, spending time with friends, or grabbing drinks at one of Montreal’s many great bars. What most people don’t anticipate doing, however, is picking up an axe and throwing it at a large target, much less of their own free will. Bad Axe Throwing, a Canadian company that teaches lessons on the sport of axe throwing, hopes to change this. Having just opened a location in Montreal in June 2016—their 10th location nationwide—Bad Axe is making its way across Canada to teach the technical skill of axe throwing while providing entertainment and stress-relief.
Every axe throwing session begins with an introduction led by experienced instructors, in which groups of attendees are taught the rules of safety and basic throwing techniques. While each member of a group is given the opportunity to practice throwing, instructors give one-on-one coaching to each participant, removing some of the impersonality that comes with being part of a large group. From there, the instructors lead groups in games and competitions. These typically entail earning points based on accuracy and landing spot on the board, similar to a game of darts.
Despite how dangerous axe throwing may sound at first, the number one priority of Bad Axe is safety. The goal of the company is to ensure that the most dangerous part of attending an axe throwing session is the car ride there and back. Tom Bradshaw, chief Axe Thrower at Bad Axe Montreal, keeps safety in mind during every lesson.
“We preach safety—that’s the big thing we do when people come in,” Bradshaw said. “We [have a great safety record] across all locations. No one’s been seriously hurt; the biggest one I’ve heard of is someone needing a bandaid on their arm because the axe had grazed them a little bit.”
Regardless of the company’s clean safety record across all locations, many first time axe throwers are understandably nervous. The instructors at Bad Axe are equipped to calm even the most intense nerves, making people feel more confident as they leave their comfort zone, axe in hand.
“Whenever [first time axe throwers] are a little bit afraid, I always like to remind them that because they’re throwing an axe forward, and it’s leaving you–you’re not chopping wood right in front–they don’t ever have to worry about hitting themselves,” Bad Axe Managing Director Jesse Gutzman said. “Because it’s going forward, it’s never going to hit you. Worst case scenario, it hits the floor.”
While safety is Bad Axe’s priority, they also emphasize ensuring the uniformity of every location in Canada. Bad Axe’s goal is for each location to accurately represent the national brand and for customers to have the same experience no matter where they are.
“You go from this location to another one, the axes are going to be the same, the targets are going to be the same,” Bradshaw said. “The only thing that may change is the games you play.”
Nearly two years after their foundation as a company in Burlington, Ontario, Bad Axe is now opening locations at an increasingly rapid pace. It it increasingly important to maintain similarity between all of their locations as the company expands across Canada.
“[Bad Axe’s expansion] definitely started slower, and there is an exponential growth happening right now,” Gutzman said. “We just opened [a location in] Surrey [British Columbia] two weeks ago […] and now we’re already in Montreal. When we started, it was about four to five months in between locations.”
As their growth as a franchise accelerates, Bad Axe management looks toward a future with more and more Canadians throwing axes for sport. Though they have a few walk-in hours per week, Bad Axe currently operates predominantly through online bookings, catering mainly to large groups who plan and schedule their axe throwing sessions well in advance.
“The main thing that we would like to do in the future is to be able to have open hours at any given time so people can just pop in,” Gutzman said. “It’s a lot of fun, and it’s really no difference in price when it comes to bowling or laser tag. Those are both just manufactured activities. Bowling hasn’t been around for more than 40 years. People think it’s just something that’s always been there. Someone created that, made a demand for it, so that’s what we want to do—have people think, ‘Let’s go axe throwing.’”
To find out more about Bad Axe Throwing or to book an axe throwing session, visit their website.