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    On my second practice throw, I hit the bull’s-eye. Zack Pennington, co-founder of Flying Axes, is so impressed that he insists I take a photo with my handiwork. I chalk it up to beginner’s luck because most of my throws bounce off the target and reverberate into the cage’s hard oak border, coming to a stop in front of me on the rubber mat. More times than not, Pennington has to pry his ax out of the pine target, which is nicked and scraped from previous throws and will need to be replaced soon.

    He instructs me to hold the ax — think hatchet, not Paul Bunyan — with both hands, left over right, to bring it behind my head, parallel with my skull. The goal is to release straight in front of me, for the ax to make a single full rotation. “Whether you’re holding too tall, letting it go too early or too late — all of that factors in,” says Pennington, who’s in his early 30s.

    He uses an app on his phone to keep score and input our ax-throwing nicknames (ZAX and JEN) on the scoreboard, which hangs between paired targets. (Each of the eight cages has two targets.) We clink axes before the best-of-three match, five throws each per round. He got the idea to launch Flying Axes, scheduled to open later this month on Clay Street next to the Extreme Skate Park, after a bachelor party in a Toronto ax-throwing venue. A cage rental for groups as large as six people will be $80 per hour, and Pennington hopes to start up a league and is working on figuring out a membership package.

    For the rest of our game, I only manage to catch the target a few more times, enough to win the middle game. My sweet spot is just in front of the red line on the floor, which marks the zone where only the two active players can be. I get one more bull’s-eye when, mid-throw, I switch from two hands to one. Luck again. When we finish, Pennington brings up a scorecard on the app, showing my pitiful numbers against his. “It just depends on technique and who’s focused,” he says. “If you are physically capable of throwing the ax, it doesn’t matter if you’re seven years old or 70 years old.”

    This originally appeared in the July 2017 issue of Louisville Magazine. To subscribe to Louisville Magazine, click here. To find your very own copy of Louisville Magazine, click here. 

    Cover photo by Mickie Winters

    Jennifer Kiefer's picture

    About Jennifer Kiefer

    Germantown transplant. Louisville native.

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