Depending on who you ask, axe throwing is either exciting or intimidating. After all, you are throwing an axe full speed at a standing target. For those who lean on the intimidated side of axe throwing, know there’s more that goes into the popular sport than simply throwing an axe.
Proper techniques, safety measures, and a qualified instructor make this game a lot less scary and more thrilling. Not to mention, it’s a killer upper body workout and can quickly boost feel-good hormones (especially when hitting the target).
And if anyone is going to show you how to throw an axe it’s Alissa Wetherbee who’s been competing professionally in Timbersports and Loggingsports for over 20 years. Founder of Axe Women Loggers of Maine, Wetherbee is a three-time world champion, once in axe throwing, once in the Peavey Log Roll, and once in the Two-Woman Cross-Cut Sawing. Impressive to say the least.
Over 20 years ago Wetherbee took first place in the World’s Open Lumberjill Contest in Boonville, New York in the axe throw. Since then, she’s won or placed highly in countless axe-throwing competitions throughout North America and has gone on to teach thousands of people—including Queen Latifah and Harry Connick—how to throw an axe.
“In our sport, we are throwing full-size, competition throwing axes, [which are different from] the hatchets you see throwh in bars and on television,” she says.
And with that, Wetherbee throws her top tips to give you the sharpest (and safest) axe-throwing experience.
A Brief History of Axe Throwing
“I think it would be impossible to nail down the first-ever axe-throwing competition,” says Wetherbee as many stories over time have talked about the origin of axe throwing.
From tales of the logging camps throughout the North American forests hosting chopping, sawing, log rolling, and axe throwing competitions between the lumberjacks to see who was the strongest and fastest in the camp, to frontiersman (and women), as well as Vikings holding competitions.
Whatever the origin, the axe is a tool that has been used throughout history all over the world. And now, you get the chance to pick up an axe and continue in the history of this historic sport—not to mention, have lots of fun!
How to Throw an Axe for Beginners
- Step 1: Stand 20 feet away from your target.
- Step 2: Hold the axe with both hands at the bottom of the handle. (Wetherbee grabs the axe with her left hand on the bottom and her right hand just above her left.)
- Step 3: Keep your shoulders square to your target and pull the axe straight back over your head. (Don’t worry if the head of the axe touches your back—it won’t cut you. Throwing axes are not razor-blade sharp).
- Step 4: Throw the axe as if you are throwing a soccer ball over your head, keeping your eyes on your target. Release the axe when your hands are lined up with the center of your target, and most importantly, keep your hands pointed at the target until the axe lands. (If you drop your hands immediately after releasing the axe, most likely the axe will land short of your target.)
- Step 5: After it’s safe to do so, retrieve your axe from the target, then repeat.
Keep in mind, “Practice makes perfect and muscle memory is key to axe throwing,” says Wetherbee.
Additional Axe Throwing Techniques
There are other acceptable ways to throw an axe. Once you start practicing, you’ll find what technique works best for you.
- Taking a step forward as you throw
- Standing with your toes against the 20-foot line
- Not moving your feet at all while throwing
Must-Have Axe Throwing Equipment and Gear
If you’re looking to practice in your backyard with a full-sized axe (not a hatchet), you’ll need to build the target stand on your own.
If building isn’t your thing, you can always purchase an Axe throwing target stand, however, they are best fit for hatchets. Full-sized axes require heavier stands.
Keep in mind, building your own target stand or having someone build the unit for you is much cheaper.
- An Axe Throwing Target: For the target wood material, Wetherbee recommends Pinewood, polar wood, or cottonwood and enjoys a Trunk (or round of the butt) shape target.
The World Axe Throwing League can guide you step-by-step on how to make your own target, or you can order a starter kit to make the building process even easier.
- The Stand: The center (bullseye) of your target needs to be five feet off the ground. You can make a stand out of wood or metal, but keep in mind, it needs to be sturdy.
Wetherbee explains the target needs to be heavy, as you don’t want the force of the axe hitting it, to knock it over. (Which a full-sized axe could certainly do).
“A tripod style stand works best, with two legs on the front, slightly leaning back on one leg.” Recommends Wetherbee.
- The Axe: Lastly, you’ll need an axe. Wetherbee’s preferred throwing axes are made right here in the United States by Precision Axes in California.
They are handmade, and they can customize your axe to exactly what you’re looking for. Wetherbee prefers a slightly heavier throwing axe, for example, so that the wind is not as much of an issue when she’s throwing outdoors.
For a lighter stand purchased online, always go with a hatchet.
Wetherbee’s Safety Tips and What Not to Do When Axe Throwing
With the sport of Axe throwing must come some pretty tight safety tips. Wetherbee shares the most important tips to keep your game fun and injury-free.
- Always make sure that your throwing area (and the immediate area surrounding you) is clear of people, pets, kids, etc.
- Axe throwing is a super safe sport. (Even though it can be intimidating for some), as long as you do it correctly and use common sense.
- Don’t throw with people standing too close to you, walking behind you, or if there is a possibility of them being too close to your target.
- Don’t sharpen your throwing axe too much. (A dull axe is actually best for throwing).
- Make sure all of your equipment is in good condition.
- Don’t throw at an unstable or unsteady target.
- Make sure your axe is “pinned and wedged “meaning the head of the axe is secured to your handle with a tension pin through the center of the head and a wedge pounded into the top of the handle.
- Never throw with a loose axe head or broken handle.
- Be aware of anything that might be slightly overhead while throwing, such as branches, clotheslines, hanging lights, and other objects.
With a strong target stand and safety rules followed axe throwing can become a fantastic hobby that offers strength training for the brain and upper body!