Wooden bullseyes line the walls of lanes that are padded with wood and metal inside a center nestled in the Vista, but it isn't darts or arrows that customers are throwing — it's axes.
A fairly new addition to Columbia's entertainment scene, Craft Axe Throwing features an open room with a bar and a number of large, caged lanes. Those who want to try their hand at throwing have two option: a small ax and a bigger two-handed ax.
Anyone above the age of 10 can throw axes. According to its website, Craft Axe Throwing is a place for "casual and competitive axe throwing events for social, corporate, and league groups" or anyone wanting to test their coordination with a hatchet. With a franchise across four states, it provides everything needed to experience axe throwing. A family-owned business, the Columbia location opened just under two years ago.
Everyone who works there is a trained instructor in throwing and, as complex as it sounds, anyone can safely throw axes here. The instructors' main focus is to ensure customers are not scared.
“Alleviating any kind of fear is probably our number one goal. But right underneath that is safety. Because if you're scared, you're going to hurt yourself more often,” bartender and instructor Zach Speaks said.
According to Speaks, the worst accident he has seen in his time was a splinter from the wood of the cages.
The other half of the experience comes from the craft beers. Featuring beers primarily from the East Coast and some from across the country, the business tries to source locally, with some beers brewed right here in Columbia. It only serves beer and seltzers as liquor doesn’t mix well with axes. For a lover of beer and local industry, this establishment has a large and varied selection that circulates the menu frequently.
“It's a pretty fun place. I mean, even if you might think you might be scared to do — which, we give you, you know, safe options. Some people come in and they really won't do it because they're kind of scared. But you should at least experience it once," assistant manager Giselle Madison said. "Even if you don't get a chance to, like, really come to it all the time on the league days or anything like that. It's a really fun experience just to say you threw axes at a wall."
Columbia Craft Axe Throwing hosts leagues every Tuesday night. Speaks is a referee and coach with the World Axe Throwing League, an international organization promoting indoor axe throwing and connecting establishments such as Columbia Craft Axe around the world. It also works to standardize the sport of axe throwing by setting official rules, safety protocols, techniques and more.
“I'd say just give it a try. It's really just, whenever I describe my job to people for the first time when I meet them, it’s really hard to actually describe what I'm doing. Because they admit that their immediate reaction is, 'Can you repeat what you just said?'" instructor and bar attendant Skyler Lumadue said. “The way I'd compare it is, you go to a bar with, you know, darts and stuff. This is basically just darts, just slightly bigger.”
Size doesn't matter. As long as you can throw and drink, Craft Axe is for you.