Axe throwing in Shelburne, Nova Scotia, is easy for everyone.... except maybe not for anti-adventurists like me. This is what happened when I stepped on the axe throwing platform at the Boxing Rock Brewing Company.
Have you ever signed up for an activity you're a little unsure about it and the organizer tells you not to worry, that they've never lost someone/ had someone capsize/ had someone utterly fail? It's a heartening speech designed to bolster low confidence and soothe the very nerves that lead to shaky performance. And thus far, it's proven true for me.
Until now, folks. Until now.
This is what happened when a confirmed anti-adventurist (that's me) took on one heck of a crazy challenge (that's axe throwing in Shelburne, Nova Scotia) and utterly failed.
Recreational axe throwing is gaining popularity across North America and southern Nova Scotia has long been ahead of the trend. The tiny community of Barrington, about 2.5 hours south of Halifax, is so passionate about axe throwing that it's the host of the 2022 World Double-bit Axe Throwing Championships! And in the neighbouring community of Shelburne, those curious about the activity can give it a try for themselves at the Boxing Rock Brewing Company.
For those unfamiliar, axe throwing is exactly what you think it is. You throw an axe! Yep, it's heavy and sharp! (Well, I'm told it's actually dull but it looked pretty menacing to me....) If you hit your target, which looks like a large, wooden dart board, you earn points. After a set amount of throws, the person with the most points wins. A judge is on hand to adjudicate any disputes as to the number of points and to make sure everyone is having a safe, fun time.
It sounds simple enough, right? Well, maybe not for an anti-adventurist.
Boxing Rock's Andrew Steffenson (who describes his role as the "guy who throws things") reports that axe-throwing is a sport of finesse, not brute strength. This perhaps should have been my first warning sign, as finesse is not something I do well at all. Andrew also reported that the available axes have different weights and that it's important to find one that feels like it's a good fit for you - though, if you're not getting the results you like, you can always try something heavier or lighter. For the pros, axe selection is no small matter and Andrew said "Some people think this comes down to a psychological move, what lanes they choose, they bring their own axes..."
Finesse and a psychological game? Oh boy.
Fortified by Boxing Rock's delicious cider, my friends and I headed outside to complete our safety wavers and participate in a few practice throws. My practice throws, well, they didn't go well. Thankfully, the axe didn't fly out of my hands and decapitate the people standing behind me though, truly, I think both they and I just got lucky. However, I didn't once come close to hitting my target. My axe clunked into the wooden floor every time! Undeterred, and convinced that my friends were likely just enjoying some beginner's luck and I could come from behind to win it all, I heroically carried on.
At the beginning of our session, Andrew encouragingly said that he's only had one person score a goose egg, a zero. Well, now he has two! That's right. I didn't hit the target a single time.
Andrew did his best to provide me with some practical coaching tips, including the fact that stellar axe throwing comes from the momentum of your whole body, not just the swing of your arms. I didn't have the heart to tell him that I thought I WAS putting my whole body into it, that what he saw was me truly doing my best. I continued to consistently miss my target (and, thankfully, all the bystanders) and cheered on my much more talented competitors with genuine appreciation for their skills.
Granted, we didn't get to finish our full session of axe throwing so this was more of a mini-experience but I am absolutely confident that no amount of repetition would improve my results. Frankly, I was pretty happy that the axe didn't bounce off the platform and shatter my shins so I'll consider the day a victory. I was happy to find consolation with Boxing Rock's shandy, a mix of lemonade and their Over The Top cranberry sour, and placate my feelings with their chips and salsa and lunchtime sandwiches.
Those keen on trying out axe-throwing for themselves can do so at Boxing Rock for $30, which includes instruction and an hour of play, plus a pint at the end. In doing so, you can take comfort in the fact that Andrew and his team have almost-never had anyone get zero points and, statistically, it's almost impossible to do as badly as me. Almost! And whether you succeed or fail, know that Shelburne has incredible scenery, history, and cultural experiences to enjoy once you put your blades and beers down for the day!
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