Axe-throwing: cold steel, hot sport.
Of late, axe-throwing has become a very big deal all over the world — all over, it seems, except in the unserved areas between Seattle and Tacoma, according to Vance Olsen and Duke Managhan.
But with the opening of their business, SeaAxe Throwing, a scant two to three weeks away, Olsen, a 29-year-old Auburn native, and Managhan, 28, a native of Montana, figure they’re exactly where they’ll need to be to set the craze ablaze in South King County.
SeaAxe Throwing will open at 335 East Main Street in downtown Auburn, right across from the Auburn Justice Center.
Offering people a place to stick an axe in a target, and do it safely, the two close friends and business partners agree, is a winning idea.
Here’s why they say that.
“It lets us realize the primal energy we all have, and we all wish we had a safe way to show off,” Olsen said. “With this, you get to show off with your friends. The thrill you get when you first hit a bullseye, there’s nothing like it. All your friends go crazy, they get excited and start high-fiving each other.”
“It’s kind of like darts on steroids, only a lot safer,” Managhan summed tidily.
Here’s what SeaAxe Throwing will have to offer.
Relying on standardized measurements established by the sport’s governing body, the World Axe Throwing League, Olsen and Managhan have built five 6-feet-wide throwing ranges for fun and games.
To eliminate any risk of an axe crossing into other lanes and hurting anyone, they have installed chain-link fencing to separate each lane from its neighbor.
To get the axe to its standardized target, the thrower throws from the 12-to-16-foot-deep throwing area in front of each of the ranges, distances marked by yellow lines. Step over the 12-foot line — bwaa!, toe foul.
Every person in line waits their turn, then returns to the line to go at it again. A standard session costs $29.95.
The axes weigh about two and a half pounds, Managhan said, so they are easy to heft and to work with, and because all of them are straight-edged — as opposed to curve-edged — even greenhorns can hit their mark and make it stick.
“People want to feel good about themselves and want to be entertained while they are here,” Managhan said. “And if you are throwing it but it’s not sticking consistently, then you are not enjoying yourself, and you are never going to come back. But if we make it as easy as possible, easy to stick and fun to do, then people are going to come back and tell their friends.”
Where most axe-throwing ranges offer targets complete with the rings and bulls-eyes so often associated with dart throwing, said Managhan, SeaAxe will use a projector system, mounted in the top corner of each lane. The device projects varying images and games onto the targets, catering to all skill levels.
Wanna play Tic Tac Toe? Here’s your chance.
Wanna pitch your axe at a brain-bolting zombie? Well, whatta ya waiting for?
But can the projector light up the target with, say, the mug of someone you don’t like?
“I’ll plead the Fifth on that one,” Managhan laughed. “We’ve joked about playing games like Axe your Ex, and Valentines’ Day is coming up… But, no, we’ll never do that.”
Managhan considered his reply for a moment.
“Probably not,” he said. Then, with a mischievous look in his eyes, he added, “for now.”
A major part of the business will be teaching clients how to throw, and throw like pros.
That is, an overhand throw, above the head, and one step to the target. The axe should make one full rotation end-over-end before it hits the target. Two-handed or one-handed, either works.
“It’s very much finesse,” said Managhan. “In fact, women usually do better than men because they are not trying to show off and muscle everything. You can throw it two- or one-handed. Vance throws it one-handed, and I do it two-handed.”
Get good enough, and you can go on to compete with friends at tournaments and leagues and other competitions. After all, axe-throwing is an international sport with its own governing body.
“It’s a bit of a workout on the shoulders,” said Vance. “It’s also counterintuitive in that the harder throw does not mean a better throw.”
The duo met at iFly Indoor Skydiving in Renton several years ago where they taught the basics of body flight and safe and stable body-flight positions to people paying to float in a vertical wind tunnel — like those in use at Boeing, only upside down, said Managhan.
But when the job began to beat up their bodies, they said, they began to consider other ways to make a living.
One night in the spring of 2021, Olsen took his girlfriend to an axe-throwing establishment in south Seattle, where, he said, he had the most fun he’d ever had in his life.
And by the time he returned to the apartment he shares with Managhan on the West Hill between Auburn and Federal Way, he was practically raving.
“He literally kicked in the door, and shouted, ‘We need to open an axe-throwing range, now!” Managhan recalled.
Managhan needed a bit more time to convince, but after trying the sport for himself, he ended up just as smitten with it as Olsen.
So the men set up a business plan, performed their due diligence and concluded they had a winning business opportunity, and that a remodeled former lawyer’s office and a former photographic studio in Auburn would be just the place to make it happen.
The two will also sell merchandise, including hats and T-shirts bearing the company’s logo, designed by Managhan, a skilled artist with a bachelor’s degree in animation.
“I love places that are positive and giving people positive experiences like that, and this is going to be one of those places,” Vance said.
SeaAxe Throwing will be open from 2 to 10 p.m. Wednesdays to Fridays, 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. on Saturdays, and from 10 a.m to 8 p.m. on Sundays. It will be closed on Mondays and Tuesdays.