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Class notes: How-to

How to throw an ax

Dustin Snyder, EMBA ’15, Co-founder of Hatchets & Hops

Illustration of a lumberjack teaching an ax-throwing class

Illustration by Kevin Rechin 

Interview by Michael Flatt

People tend to have the same question when they first hear about Hatchets & Hops, a new club in downtown Buffalo where patrons can practice ax-throwing. Co-founder Dustin Snyder is here to tell you unequivocally the answer: No. It isn’t dangerous. 

“It’s not just people walking in and throwing axes willy-nilly,” the former Eagle Scout says, explaining that participants must take a safety lesson before chucking wood-splitting tools through the air, and they can’t head for the bar (which is in a separate area) until they’re done. 

The natural follow-up question is “Why ax-throwing?”—to which Snyder recounts how he and co-founder Andrew Piechowicz (MBA ’16, BS ’12) got into the sport on their visits to Canada, where it’s well-established, with bars in Toronto, Halifax and Montreal featuring competitive leagues. 

Snyder sees ax-throwing as a window into a bygone era, when loggers would spend months at a time in the woods. This sort of historical context is something he thinks goes over well with millennials, the club’s target demographic. But the rush of wielding an ax, he believes, has universal appeal. 

So now that we understand the “why” of ax-throwing (and are tempted to try it ourselves), we decided to ask Snyder about the “how.”

Safety first
The first thing our instructors go through is our 12-point safety policy. Most important, there’s only one person throwing at a target at any time, and that person is the only one holding an ax. You’re also not allowed to cross the throwing line until all the axes in the bay have come to rest either in the target or on the floor.

Throw with your body, not your arms
Your arms are just there to hold the ax. It’s like a throw-in in soccer. You start with your weight on your back foot and shift to your front foot while leading with your chest. 

Don’t flick your wrists
If you flick your wrists, you’ll screw up the rotation of the ax—you only want the ax to rotate once—and it won’t hit the target. It’s a lot like darts in that way.

Use two hands
You can throw an ax with one hand, but it’s easier with two. It keeps you more centered. 

Follow through
Like most athletic movements, it’s important to keep the motion smooth. If there’s a sudden stop, it’s going to impact the trajectory of the ax leaving your hands. So you want to sweep the hands back behind the body on the follow-through.