Darts have been a popular pastime for over a century.
But are you looking for something bigger, something bolder, something more outrageous?
Well, since you cut…
Ax throwing has become a thing in Baton Rouge, popular enough to support not one but two businesses that allow people to indulge in a more primitive form of recreation in indoor comfort.
“I really believe it appeals to everyone’s inner Viking,” said Christopher Bonin, director of civilian ax throwingwhich opened on Government Street in 2020.
Gotham Archery became the first local ax throwing venue when it opened on Greenwell Springs Road in 2017. It’s not the first time owner Ken Hsu has brought the concept to a town, having added it to his two archery locations in New York years earlier when one of his employees suggested it would be a good place to expand.
“I was born and raised in the city. I wanted something to do outdoors,” Hsu said. “I started gravitating towards these things that made me feel like, wow, I’m learning something new. Everything is digital now, so we wanted to go in the opposite direction in almost everything we do here.”
What started as a sport for lumberjacks started popping up in backyards and outdoor clubs. Not even one of the most hilarious moments in TV history – actor Ed Ames teaches Johnny Carson how to throw a tomahawk on a 1965 episode of “The Tonight Show” – got people thinking it might work as an indoor activity.
However, as televised competitions increased its popularity, savvy entrepreneurs like Hsu introduced indoor venues using smaller axes and hatchets. Booths with painted bull’s eyes on wooden walls give participants a target, and the goal is to stick the ax blade into the wall.
This is easier said than done for newcomers, which is why places like Gotham Archery and Civil Ax Throwing have staff to coach people in the proper technique.
“It’s harder than you think,” said customer Ken Naquin, who has thrown axes a few times and said it took about half an hour to learn how to hold the axes.
This difficulty is part of the appeal to Nicole Favalora, who attended a young leaders event at Civil Ax on January 27. The event was sponsored by Louisiana Associated General Contractors, of which Naquin is CEO.
“The playing field is level playing field because not many people have done it before, so everyone starts off really bad and laughs throughout the first moment,” Favalora said. “It’s just fun.”
Some people can do it better than others. Terry Remondet, assisting in the same function as Favalora, turned a few heads by consistently sticking the axes against the target wall. Beginners luck?
“I have no idea what I’m doing,” he said. “It’s the first time I’ve done this. I just winged it.
Although ax throwing seems to appeal to younger audiences, companies have their share of corporate events, birthday parties, and even retirement parties. Bonin heard of a place where a woman celebrated her divorce by bringing friends over and having them aim for her wedding dress, which they shredded at the end of the evening.
“It’s the adrenaline rush, but I also strongly believe it’s a great stress reliever,” Bonin said. “He exerts that energy. Any accumulated tension you have, anything that can be used to throw the axe. … We had people who came during the week of the finals, organized anti-stress evenings.
None of the local ax throwing sites sell booze, although Civil Ax is two doors down from Radio Bar and allows BYOB folks.
“It suits everyone,” Bonin said. “It takes a bit of practice and a bit of coaching for some people, but just about anyone can get used to it, and that’s what I love about it.”