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At 5-foot-2 and 110 pounds, Kelsey Vivian doesn’t look like much of a force.
But when the miniscule 27-year-old reaches over her head with two hands, leans in and hurls an axe at a wooden target board, it’s a powerful sound.
“It’s really not that tough,” she said minutes after finishing a game in the Jack Axes axe-throwing league in downtown St. John’s.
“People think it requires a lot of upper body strength, but it’s not about power. For me, it’s more about body momentum.
“It seems kind of intimidating at first. But once you do it, you see how easy is it.”
The sound of cheering, shouts of, “Yeah!” and the thumping sound of axes landing in the wooden board are heard over the music blaring from the speakers at the Jack Axes facility on Water Street.
During Vivian’s game with Laura Churchill, the two clicked axes as they switched sides and shook hands at the end of the game, complimenting each other while onlookers and the scorekeeper cheered them on.
Like many, Vivian first tried the sport on the mainland and got hooked. When she moved back home, she was excited when a facility opened here.
This new social activity has taken off.
“Since we opened a little over two years ago, our numbers have really grown,” said Adrian Beaton, Jack Axes’ co-owner and co-founder with his cousin, Paul MacInnis.
The Jack Axes league has more than 50 members, while the facility also hosts events for many groups, including adult and youth groups for corporate events, fundraisers, birthdays, stag and stagette parties, family gatherings and drop-in games.
Players here are getting so good at it, they are fighting for a spot to compete at the 2019 world axe-throwing championships, to be held in December in Chicago. The event will be televised on ESPN.
At least two players from St. John’s will be chosen, along with one each from their other two locations.
“It’s a pretty big thing, to watch them on international TV competing against some of the best in the world,” Beaton said. “It’d be nice if people could tune in and support them.”
Beaton and MacInnis have another location in the Annapolis Valley, N.S., and are opening a third location in Halifax, where Beaton is from and lived before moving to St. John’s 11 years ago.
Due to trademark issues, his business will soon change its name to Hali-Mac (a mix between Hali, the name of his dog, and Mac, MacInnis’ nickname). In the near future, he hopes to expand into the United States, where the game is huge.
But for most, it’s just a fun and challenging pastime.
“You get that rush — I did it!” said Robert Andrews, participating in his first year in the Jack Axes league.
“It does take some practice and skill to be good at it, but the first time you sink that axe in the target, you’re hooked.”
After participating in roller derby, Laura Churchill said, she likes that axe throwing is different from any other sport.
“Once you figure it out and that axe hits the board and sinks right it, it’s sooooo satisfying,” said the 36-year-old, who has seen a big growth in female participants since she first started last year.
“I like it because you don’t have to be big and strong. It’s not about power. It’s technique.
“It’s kind of like throwing darts, but bigger and heavier.”