Right now, it’s been 13 years from the first axe throwing competition organized within the National Axe Throwing Federation (NAFT) in Canada. When have it all started? How the sport gained its popularity and what is axe throwing today?
Quite accidental at its beginnings, the sport actually comes from Toronto in Canada, where in 2006 a bunch of friends decided to throw axes at a stump, just to kill the boredom. For sure, they didn’t realize that it will be a total revival of the ancient discipline, going viral throughout Canada, then around the States and consequently reaching also Europe. Matt Wilson, who is the BATL (Backyard Axe Throwing League) founder and its CEO, reminisces that time as a funny, spontaneous adventure, remembering his first target and first meetup with friends, invited to check it out. Gradually, the amount of friends coming to visit Matt was growing, as more and more people wanted to try it out. Before he realized it, he was hosting basically 2 full leagues, having around 60 players per night in his backyard.
Nowadays, Matt Wilson oversees a successful chain of axe-throwing venues, where nearly a million players tossed hatchets. But of course going from a backyard hangout to a fully profitable business didn’t happen overnight. In 2011, his backyard started to become so packed that Matt decided to move the league to 1,200-square-foot warehouse with a regular, higher fee a to cover all expenses. He added two more weekly league nights to meet demand, always being on post to support his guests, show the mechanics or offer some coaching tips. Another game-changing moment came several months later, when one of the hockey teams decided to host a party there. It gave Matt the publicity he needed, multiplying the profit and encouraging him to quit his regular job. In 2018 he had his 13 locations across North America (including Toronto, Pickering, Ottawa, Niagara Falls, London, Kitchener, Hamilton, and Calgary in Canada; in addition to Novi, Nashville, and Chicago in U.S. and more venues to come). Of course axe throwing went far more beyond America and BATL, coming to Europe, including i.e. Krakow, Poland.
Back to the ancient roots
Originally, the activity doesn’t come Canada, but from the Scandinavian countries, deriving from centuries before Matt’s Wilson discovery. It was the Vikings warriors, which made axe throwing their habit, refining themselves in military art. Bad Axe (throwing club) in Krakow comes back to that times, being a kind of a tribute paid to the brave soldiers. That is why, the club offers not only 4 professional lanes for axe throwing, but also a full Viking equipment to take commemorative photos and embody those times.