We Tried It: Urban Axe Throwing

Lyndsey Teter
Lyndsey Teter and Marty Parker

On Father's Day, my dad tossed a pile of folded, worn documents into my lap. “There's your proof,” he told me, as I examined what looked like stamped birth certificates. It was the hard evidence needed to back up family folklore: My father is a genuine Paul Bunyan Ohio State Lumberjack Champion Axe Thrower. The first-prize check, dated 1979, was for $55 from the Ohio Forestry Association. In the pile were checks from 1980, 1994, all the way up to 2005.

Admittedly, acceptable proof could be found in the fact that I'm the only woman I know who regularly gathers around a bonfire with friends and family to throw a 5-pound double-bit axe into a seasoned oak slab. Naturally, when Columbus Axe Throwing opened this spring in the ruins of the Continent on the North Side, I was morally obligated to bring a bunch of friends and check it out. Marty Parker, owner of four new axe-tossing joints in Columbus, Cincinnati, Cleveland and Dallas, showed no reluctance to indulge.

Following the white arrows through winding AstroTurfed hallways of the Stars Indoor Sports Complex at 6124 Busch Blvd., I had some lumbersnark primed. I've been watching this movement leak in from Canada with bearded hipsters chucking 1.5-pound hatchets inside chain-link cages. As kin to the more Appalachian tradition—where axes are bigger and thrown over greater distances around bonfires, booze, babies, turkey legs and flip flops—I'd mocked these tiny tomahawks as country darts. There's no way this could compare. Right?

Turns out size doesn't matter. It's basic human instinct: Put something sharp in someone's hand, point them to the closest bull's-eye, and they'll try to sink it faster than you can sign a corporate liability waiver. This became evident as I watched the woodsy addiction seize an innocent group of girlfriends as they appropriated my hillbilly cultural upbringing for three hours.

Spoiler alert: I'm glad it's going mainstream. It's so fun, y'all.

“You're going to fail over and over and over,” Parker warned us after we had been briefed on the rules and agonized over picking the nicknames we'd assume for the night (mine was “Axe Me Later”).Parker assured us that we would overcome and eventually one of us would be crowned “Lumber Lord.” As our party's “axe-pert,” Parker, whose previous business ventures include mud runs and zombie escape rooms, was crucial to the night's success. More theatrical game show host than woodsman, he coached our group through the night. “This is active entertainment,” Parker says, gesturing toward my grunting friends in their most primal states: eating nachos and methodically destroying moistened pine 2x6s.

After three or four structured games, and someone other than me was crowned Lumber Lord (I was eliminated early—I shamed my family legacy), our group blew through the allotted time, practicing “one more” throws until I was worried Parker might have to summon security to usher us out. “I have some [stuff] to work through,” said one of my girlfriends, before widening her stance and rearing back for “one more.” I don't think she's alone, but this is why God invented group rates.