Axe-throwing bars and experiences have become popular in recent years, and one can find them in bigger cities like Durham, Greensboro and Raleigh. But one can also find a place to throw axes in Mebane, too.
During the pandemic last year, Steve Farrell, of Sykes Road, built a place to throw axes behind his shed on his property.
In the beginning it was just something to do, a way to pass the time. Over time, as neighbors saw Farrell and his friend, Ken Lutz, out throwing axes, they became interested and, in turn, the BAHL was born.
Beginning in late 2020, the group of roughly 15 players, including official scoring judge Russell Griffin, began meeting at Farrell’s house each Sunday to play.
The league has eight-week seasons; for seven weeks, players play four games each week and, in the eight week, there is a tournament. After that, winners are crowned and the season starts over.
Prior to last year, Farrell had never thrown an axe like this in his life. In fact, it took him about a month to even stick an axe on the board, he said.
The league only meets on Sundays, but Farrell throws most days. “You got to with these rascals,” he said.
Wesley Bishop, of Sykes Road, was out throwing on Sunday for the first time. He said he was walking down the street with his wife recently when he saw the group throwing axes and asked if he could join.
As everyone played more and more games over time, their skills began to improve.
In axe-throwing, scores are categorized by classes. Scores between zero and 49 fall under the amateur classification. Pro class is scores between 50 and 59. Elite pros achieve scores of 60 or better, with 64 being the perfect game.
Only Steve, Ken and Joe Fortuna, another member of the BAHL, are in the elite pro class, but everyone gets better each week, Farrell said.
Given that Farrell’s set up is outdoors, playing in the cold and rain is difficult. So, Joe Fortuna, another Sykes Road neighbor, recently created a space in his garage which will allow everyone to continue play ing, despite the weather.
“Steve and I were talking a couple weeks ago and sometimes we have rain, off and on all day, it was kind of aggravating,” Fortuna said. “So, I thought, ‘Why don’t I build a couple of target boards and put them in my garage?’... Then, come wintertime, I can just crank up the torpedo heater make it 70 degrees in here. If it’s raining or snowing, we’ll be inside nice and warm.”
Fortuna said he set it all up a couple of weeks ago and has already gotten some use out of it, outside of league play.
“Joe [Amico] and his wife, Kay, they came over to our house Saturday night and we had date night,” he said. “We had pizza and beer and threw axes for about four hours.”
As the group has continued playing over the months, each Sunday has become not only a time to throw axes but to gather socially.
Trying axe-throwing, and creating his own set up, led Farrell to try a lot of other new things, like forging axes. “I made all the axes except one,” he said.
The axes he creates are unique. Some are heavy, some light; some have tape to better one’s grip, some do not. Farrell makes them custom to meet each player’s needs.
Farrell has gotten so good at forging axes that he’s even started making them for the professionals.
“I’ve got axes all over the United States that I made for people who throw in the World Axe Throwing League (WATL),” he said.
Farrell added that he recently sold one of his axes to the winner of the 2021 WATL US Open Tournament.
Forging axes is not something Farrell had ever done before but, when he started getting in to throwing, he figured he’d try making his own instead of buying them. He posted his creations on the WATL app to share with other players.
“And then the next thing I know, people are wanting to buy them,” he said.
Farrell also makes the trophies for season winners, as well as keychains for every player when they reach a new score class.
The fee for the league is only $20 for the year, and that’s only to cover the cost of the boards – which must be replaced almost weekly – and the trophies and keychains Farrell makes.