There’s probably not many things you can do (under guided supervision) that offer the sheer primeval excitement as throwing axes at a wall. So when we saw the opportunity to do it in London we pretty much ran down there to try it out. If we owned loincloths we’d probably have worn them.
The facility, set up by the guys over at Whistle Punks, is a six lane axe-throwing range in Whitechapel that gives people the chance to throw axes under the tutelage of trained supervisors. There’s nets, a safety zone, constant guidance and a well stocked selection of snacks and soft drinks (no alcohol – which we were pretty pleased about).
After a run through of the safety procedures, how to actually throw an axe and how the 1.5 hour session would pan out, we all took it in turns to try to hit the targets on the wall. Like a simplified darts board, the targets mark out four scoring areas within two circles; 1 point for the outer circle, 3 for the inner and 6 for a bullseye, with two outer circles giving people a gambling chance at 7 points.
There are two ways to throw the axes: one-handed or two-handed, each with its own benefits (the one-handed approach being favoured by the stronger people in the group). The technique is actually pretty simple – pull the axe back behind the head and throw it forward at the right time, which, when done by the supervisors, seemed pretty easy. When we tried it for ourselves we realised that there was a bit more to it than that. Throwing it at the target was simple enough, but getting the damn thing to stick in it was easier said than done.
After a few attempts, most of them pretty crap, we took part in a tournament which saw us competing in a series of one on one matches using five throws. The winners of each advancing to the next round. By some miracle we managed to get to the semi final, until we realised that pretty much every throw before was largely luck and so headed back to the chairs to watch the final.
After our humiliating defeat, exacerbated by a misguided sense of confidence in the earlier rounds (something about throwing an axe in front of a group of people brings with it a strange sort of public masculinity test), we tried out a few showy trick shots. Trust us, throwing two axes at the same time is as overwhelmingly cool as it sounds… not that we managed to actually hit the target or anything.
As an activity in London, it’s pretty damn fun to do, as you’d probably expect. A nice little thing to try out with a friend or even as a team outing (our group was a mix of couples and company teams having a night out). The sessions are well structured, meaning everyone gets the chance to throw a lot of axes and the trainers are clearly pretty well pressed to keep an eye on the safety aspects.
An individual off-peak session for Whistle Punks costs £22 per person, with private lane hire coming in at £29. If you find that you have a talent for it (not like us), you can even join the UK’s first axe throwing league. To find out more head over to the website here. Whistle Punks has centres in London and Manchester, with a new one opening in Birmingham soon.