“It’s basically darts on steroids”: Axe throwing with Mr. Bradley

Axe throwing has been sweeping the nation as the next big social gathering activity, challenging bowling, but an Eastern teacher already has years of experience with the sport.

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Photo supplied by Kevin Bradley

For two years, Mr. Kevin Bradley has been throwing axes as a hobby.

By Andrew Shinkle, Eastern Regional High School

For Mr. Kevin Bradley, hands-on work is an area of expertise. From saws and machines in woodworking, to cameras and shutters in photography, he has vast experience in many industrial arts offered at Eastern. But what many don’t know is that Bradley participates in a rather unique hands-on sport.

Axe throwing is not your typical recreational activity; in Bradley’s words, “it’s basically darts on steroids.” It’s just as crazy as it sounds, you hurl full-size chopping axes at a wooden bullseye perched up on a faraway wall.

Bradley has been enjoying axe throwing for two years, with many more to come.

“I went to one of the local venues in Cherry Hill on winter break a couple of years ago with some friends, and had a really good time. It’s basically a bowling league but better, because you’re throwing axes. So, I started throwing in a league then, and I haven’t stopped,” he said.

Axe throwing’s modern-day prominence can be traced back to 2006, with the formation of the Backyard Axe Throwing League (BATL), and its 2011 opening to the public. With its creation, CEO Matt Wilson pioneered the axe throwing business, and many others were quick to replicate its success. Fast-forward to 2016, and a world-wide governing body for the sport, the International Axe Throwing Federation (IATF), was formed.

In particular, Bradley loves the people and the competitiveness that axe throwing brings to the table.

“I know males, females, and age isn’t a factor in it. Really, anyone who puts the time in can succeed at this,” he said. “It’s really just technique and knowing what you’re doing. I can teach someone how to throw an axe in three or four throws, where they’re sticking consistently into the wall.”

Even though throwing a full-sized 1.75 pound axe at a wall may sound grueling, he insists that this is not the case.

“The most arduous part of it is really just picking the axe up off the floor if you miss and it falls,” Bradley said.

In 2018, at BATL locations, over 10.8 million axes were thrown, and there were more than 275,000 throwers. What for a long period of time was written off as a lumberjack stereotype has recently broken into mainstream culture, and it doesn’t show any signs of becoming a fading trend.

For Mr. Bradley, axe throwing is currently just a hobby, but he would jump at a chance to take it to the professional level.

“There’s tournaments all over the world. The international championship is in Toronto, and I’m going up to that. A few friends and I are driving up, it’s the top 256 people in the world, and it’s them against each other for glory, a fantastic trophy, and a pretty big paycheck. I’m looking forward to it; it’s going to be a really good time,” he said.

This story was originally published on The Voyager on February 18, 2020.