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Welcome to the Sport of Axe Throwing

  • 7 min read

It’s possible you’ve been watching The Ocho on ESPN at 4am and found the World Axe Throwing Championship sandwiched between reruns of the New Mexico Cornhole Invitational and Jelle’s Marble Run (our favorite thing on ESPN). Maybe you’ve got the “cool boss” in your company and they took your group out for some team building at the nearest axe throwing venue. You might even have to coolest girlfriend ever who decided to take you somewhere you’ve never been before. While that statement may have gotten your hopes up, you weren’t too disappointed when you found out she booked a reservation at Total Axe Throwing. No matter how you found it, you’re a part of on the most diverse groups of people you’ve never heard of and it spans the entire globe. Now you’ve got some questions. We all did. We all asked the same questions when we found out this is really a thing.

What is The Sport of Axe Throwing?

That question has two answers. The general sport is comprised mostly of leagues where throwers compete in a few 1-on-1 matches every week for 7 weeks and use those rankings for the final week playoff bracket. The two major governing bodies for the sport are the International Axe Throwing Federation (IATF) and the World Axe Throwing League (WATL). Both are fairly similar with minor differences in distance from the target and number of throws. IATF leagues play 3-game matches of 5 throws and boasts over 13,500 league members. WATL plays a single game match of 10 throws. Their last season before COVID-19 had over 3,600 members. There are other leagues like IKTHOF and UKAT which offer tomahawk and knife throwing. UKAT holds online leagues through their Facebook group where players record themselves throwing and can compete from their backyard and garage targets.

The Sport of Axe Throwing is also as Facebook group which has over 6,000 members. The rules on what can be posted and fairly loose as long as they don’t try to harm anyone. It serves as a useful tool for announcing large tournaments, marathon leagues running nearly every weekend, and getting help/feedback from nearly every talented axe thrower in the world. It also has a tendency to get off topic with a lot of buy/sell items, people posting any news article or meme with the word “axe” in it, Vin Crescenzo and Dave Austin’s travel blog, and a Russian throwing everything that isn’t an axe into a target, while every thread eventually devolves into a tribalistic attacks of IATF vs WATL, with Adam Buckley calling everyone a moron.

How good do I have to be to join an axe throwing league?

Exactly as good as you are now. There’s no minimum skill level for most leagues. For most league players, the point isn’t to win the league (though it’s awesome if you do). The point of throwing in an axe league is to get out of the house, meet some cool people, and throw sharp shit! While there are some players who get good fast, there are a lot of league players that improve slowly or don’t care about their average. Joining a league will also help you improve faster than just throwing occasionally. Leagues are much cheaper than walk-in throwing and most of the veterans love to help out newcomers. Total Axe also offers discounts on open throwing and reservations to any league member.

Should I throw IATF or WATL?

It doesn’t matter. I’ll tell you right now that anyone who gives you a different answer is just wrong. There are a lot of opinions on this with most people standing firmly in one camp or the other. It doesn’t matter. The object of axe throwing is to throw an axe and have fun. Go to every axe throwing venue within a reasonable driving distance and meet the league players. Pick the league that has people whose company you enjoy and who you most want to travel the country with. Why? Because within a year, you’re going to want to travel the country with these people and throw in Choptober, the largest open tournament in the world held (almost) every October at Chopper’s Hatchet House and the Urban Open at Urban Axes Baltimore in July, among many other tournaments.

Have fun, learn either, and don’t pick your friends based on what league they’re in. Pick your league based on where your friends are. And don’t be a jerk to anyone.

What kind of axe should I buy?

When you start out, either use a house axe or buy the cheapest one available. Try to use as many as possible before making a pick. Each league has different rules on the size and type of axe you can use.If you absolutely need to get one right away, start on the low end. The most popular starter axes are the Ace Hammer Hatchet ($18), Kobalt Steel Camp Axe ($18), Cold Steel Competition Thrower ($38 regular), or the Council Tool Flying Fox ($50 regular). The link for the Cold Steel Competition thrower should take you to Amazon, who randomly sells it for $20 sometimes. It’s also important to note that it is nearly identical to the Cold Steel Axe Gang, which can be used if the handle is cut down, but do NOT buy the Axe Gang Trainer. It’s a plastic replica axe that many of us have been tricked into buying. Sometimes Total Axe will take pity on you and buy it from you if you can’t return it. If you’re really on a budget. Harbor Freight has $12 hatchets that will work in a pinch.

What do you carry your axes in?

You hands, a pelican gun case, modified guitar case, laptop bag, backpack, pretty much anything with a handle will do. No matter what you use, the blade should always be covered to prevent damage or injury if something goes wrong and most venues require covers when not throwing. You can buy sheaths, covers, and holsters from several people within the group. There are a number of threads within the Sport of Axe Throwing Group that a search of “carry”, “carrying”, or “case” should result in half a dozen responses, all with Vin saying “UsE tHe SeArCh BaR!” Our two favorite designs are Corey Booth’s backpack and Adam Buckley’s guitar case.

Why axe throwing?

Why not? Look, you can throw cornhole, go bowling, shooting, jogging or do underwater basket weaving if you want to. Personally, I never got along with the people in my local underwater basket weaving circle, but that’s a story for a different day. Axe throwing is fun and the people you meet will be unlike any other.

If we missed anything, or you want to argue that IKTHOF is better than IATF, drop us a line here.