If you’re a fan of the History Channel’s hit show Vikings, you may have thought to yourself how awesome it would be to throw an axe just like Ragnar Lothbrok. He’s certainly taken down more than his fair share of Saxons and Franks with a deft overhead. Whether you’re an alternative sports enthusiast or you’re just looking to sharpen your essential Viking combat skills, you’re in luck if you live in Toronto. The ancient sport is experiencing a renaissance in backyard and warehouse-based leagues in the city. Of course, today’s competitors tend to aim for the bullseye instead of Mercian soldiers.
The sport’s present-day revival was born out of a rained out cottage vacation, but its popularity has more to do with a combination of focus and letting off steam. It takes patience and calm to land a target, but once your missile launches into the air, your adrenaline pounds and the thud of metal biting into wood releases a whole lot of workday stress. If you’re looking for a way to get out one night of the week and do something completely different, popular leagues let you choose the night that works best for you. Joining a sports league can also benefit your mental capacity, improve your self-motivation and lead to better results at work.
The basics of the game are simple: each competitors gets five shots at a target with a bullseye, two rings and the clutch. The bullseye is worth five points, the inner red ring worth three and the outer blue ring worth one, while the green dots at the top corners are called the clutch, worth seven points and only available on the last turn. This is a make-it-or-break-it move—when experienced players go head-to-head hitting dead centre every time, it’s the clutch that decides who goes home victorious.
As for the throw itself, there two different types: the one-handed type that’s been compared to a baseball toss, and the two-handed overhead technique that is just like the kind you see on Vikings. Ideally, the axe will rotate a single time before finding its target, otherwise it may not strike with the edge forward and bounce off for a disappointing score of zilch. Almost anyone can learn axe throwing, too, including the visually impaired, pregnant women and people in wheelchairs, as long as they have the right instructors.
With locations across Ontario and one in Calgary, BATL, which stands for Backyard Axe Throwing League, is a league that makes the sport as accessible as possible, emphasizing the importance of technique and consistency over strength as a winning quality. No matter who you are, you can become a marksman with instruction and practice, and it’s a heart-racing thrill along the way. Whether you’re looking for week after week of play or a single night group event you can learn the ins and outs of the game at BATL. You can only learn so much without hitting the pitch yourself, and axe throwing is the kind of sport that you may not want to try at home. Proper instruction will give you the edge of technique, not to mention safety, because at the end of the day these hatchets are sharp enough to stick. Visit BATLgrounds.com/learn-how-to-throw-an-axe/ and find out more about Toronto backyard axe throwing leagues and how to sign up. The sooner you join, the sooner you’ll be landing hatchets with Ragnar’s skill and deadly accuracy.