Cleveland Axe Throwing Brings Lumberjack Sport to Northeast Ohio

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click to enlarge Zachary Clark and Steve Bauer practice before Cleveland Axe Throwing League begins. - Photo by Laura Morrison
Photo by Laura Morrison
Zachary Clark and Steve Bauer practice before Cleveland Axe Throwing League begins.
The first rule of axe throwing is that you must have permission to enter the chained-off throwing range. Cleveland Axe Throwing manager Alan Thompson is quite serious about this rule, and about all of the rules, actually.

As Thompson points out, the blades here are sharp, and the most common thing first-timers worry about is cutting themselves. But Thompson assures us that folks of all ages (at least 15 and up) and athletic abilities have come through since the business opened nearly a year ago, and not one participant has been sliced.

He says that the thrill of throwing a weapon in a controlled environment brings a lot of people back to try again, including those wanting to join the axe throwing league, which now boasts about 20 members.

"It's addicting," Thompson says. "It's an interesting skill. It's difficult, but anyone can pick it up."

Cleveland Axe Throwing, affiliated with throwing ranges in Dallas and Columbus, is part of a growing trend that allows adults to get in touch with their inner lumberjack. Already a big deal in Canada and Europe, ranges are just starting to pop up around the U.S.

Cleveland Axe Throwing, which shares a home and ownership with Great Room Escape, sits in a nondescript office building (9000 Bank St., Valley View) not too far from Cinemark at Valley View theaters. Thompson is here nearly every day teaching people to throw. Which is why he says he's confident that he's one of the best. Maybe not in the world, but perhaps in Ohio. At least here, anyway, he's the one at the top of the scoreboard. He's not trying to brag, he's just telling the truth. Learning to throw an axe has given him purpose, he says, and now he wants to share this gift with others.

"My goal is for everyone to leave here feeling like a winner," Thompson says

After a participant has signed a waiver aknowleding the inherent risks, Thompson allows them to enter the wooden throwing range. There, other rules to follow include:
-Keep your axe to yourself, don't point it or throw at others.
-If an axe is coming at you, get out of the way.
-No yanking of the axe once it's in the target, gently rock it out (this allows the target boards to last a little longer).

Each person who comes through, whether for a team building event, bachelorette party, date night or family outing, is taught to throw using one or two hands. There's a simplicity to the movement, and once the mechanics are worked out, Thompson guarantees a blade will eventually hit and stick into the target.

Zachary Clark (throwing name Axe of All Trades) has been doing this for five weeks. His wife actually got him into it, and he can't get enough, he says. He's already a new member of the league and tonight he's showed up a little bit early to practice.

The game played here is straight from the World Axe Throwing League's official rules. It's similar to shooting or darts in its scoring system, the closer to the middle of the bullseye the axe lands, the better.

Clark grasps the axe by the end of the handle, thumb lined up with its spine. He rocks backward, keeping his front foot on the line and eyes on the target, then releases. The sound of a blade slicing into a wooden board echoes through the room. But the guys here tonight say they're used to that loud cracking sound, it doesn't make them jump anymore. They just want to keep throwing.

Find out more about Cleveland Axe Throwing League right here. Wearing plaid is not required.

Check out what it looks like to throw below: 
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