Axe throwing is coming to Fairfax. Here's what you need to know.
By Keya Vakil
July 24, 2019

Have you ever wondered “what if bowling, but with axes?”

If for some reason you have had that thought and you live in Fairfax County, your fleeting thought bubble will soon become a reality, because axe throwing is coming to the Mosaic District in Fairfax.

Bad Axe Throwing, the world’s largest co-ed urban axe throwing club, will open a Fairfax location in August. So if you’ve ever heard your friends talk about axe throwing, caught a glimpse of it on TV, or watched Hugh Jackman hurl an axe and wanted to try it out, now’s your chance. 

First things first though, what exactly is axe throwing? And how did it become such a thing?

What is axe throwing?

Axe throwing is exactly what it sounds like.

To be clear, most competitors only throw one axe at a time, but otherwise, the video pretty much nails it.

How and when did axe throwing become so popular?

Axe throwing has technically been in existence for centuries (shoutout to the vikings), but as recently as seven or eight years ago, axe throwing was still just a niche activity that people did in their backyards in Canada.

Now, it’s a multi-million dollar industry that has taken the U.S. by storm and Mario Zelaya, CEO of Bad Axe Throwing, is one of the people responsible for that explosive growth. 

Zelaya, a Canadian, started his company after a friend of his went axe throwing and raved about the experience. Zelaya, who had a background in software development and digital marketing for Fortune 500 companies, realized it was something he could commercialize. 

“It was born out of curiosity and fun,” Zelaya said in an interview.  

Zelaya founded Bad Axe in 2014, at a time when there was only one other axe throwing company in the world; the Backyard Axe Throwing League, which was founded by fellow Canadian Matt Wilson in 2006.

Zelaya attributes the sport’s meteoric rise to a mix of strong word of mouth, ample media coverage and his own company’s explosive expansion.

Bad Axe currently has nearly 40 locations in North America, including more than 20 in the U.S., and is growing at a rate of one new location per month. Zelaya claims it’s the fastest growing axe throwing company in the world and wants to hit 100+ locations in the next two years.

Zelaya, who is an avid axe thrower himself, describes the sport as “Bowling 2.0,” and says it’s “a lot more exciting, a lot more thrilling…and more entertaining.” The fact that Bad Axe serves wine and beer doesn’t hurt, either. 

Another key moment in the sport’s growth was Zelaya’s 2017 launch of the World Axe Throwing League, an organization that sets uniform rules and governs league play for axe throwing. The WATL supports over 125 affiliated locations across 16 countries where people compete in regulated axe throwing leagues. 

The WATL secured a TV deal with ESPN in 2018, which also helped the sport increase its exposure, according to Zelaya. “Seeing it on TV sparks interest. It looks fun to people and they decide they want to do it.”

Axe throwing has become so popular that it’s attracted celebrities. The aforementioned Hugh Jackman, Ludacris, Charlie Hunnam and Charles Barkley have all dropped in at Bad Axe venues, according to Zelaya.

The sport has become so popular that people are now holding life-changing occasions at Bad Axe, Zelaya says. “Recently we’ve had people propose, or they’ll do a gender reveal party. Those are really popular and they’ll have balloons at the target and they’ll throw an axe at the target and the balloon explodes and you see glitter either being pink or blue.”

Are you sold yet? If so, here’s more about how it works. 

Learning how to throw

Everyone who comes into a Bad Axe location is trained on how to throw and groups always have a dedicated axe throwing coach to train them and monitor their games.

The coaches are there “to perfect your technique so you’re sticking the axe at the target,” Zelaya says. “The overall goal is that everyone is able to stick an axe.”

Zelaya says the sport is accessible for people of all ages and tells the story of a 94-year-old wheelchair-bound man who came in, was trained, and successfully stuck an axe.

“We get a lot of people who are wheelchair bound and they think they can’t do it, but it’s such an accessible sport that anyone can really do it.”

Axe throwing is also open to kids, as long as parents sign a waiver. There’s is a strength requirement though, and most children who participate are at least 10 years old. 

Is it safe?

While axe throwing may seem dangerous, especially when mixed with alcohol, Zelaya insists it is not. Competitors are required to wear closed-toed shoes, they receive a thorough training, and perhaps most importantly, if anyone appears intoxicated, “they’re not going to throw.”

The “axe throwing zone” is also an alcohol-free zone and Zelaya says coaches remain present to ensure that participants are throwing safely and that no one carries alcohol into the axe throwing area.

On top of that, not only have all Bad Axe bartenders received the proper certifications and trainings, but every coach has too, so that they can identify someone who is drunk. “Every single person under that roof has to have that training as if they are a bartender themselves…We need them to be able to identify anyone who is intoxicated,” Zelaya says.

“Our rules are very clear cut. We’re a place where you can throw axes and have a social drink, meaning have a beer or two…But we don’t serve vodka or any sort of hard liquor, we’re not here to serve jagerbombs or do shots. You’re not here to come get intoxicated.” 

Zelaya says that because of the various security measures they have in place, no one has suffered a major injury at any Bad Axe location. Some people have suffered small cuts on their hands because they dared fate and touched the sharp end of the axe, but beyond that, injuries have been few and far between. “We’ve never had an insurance claim,” says Zelaya. 


Zelaya compared the sport’s competition to golf, in that it’s an individual sport and everyone’s competing against each other. 

The basics of axe throwing are pretty simple. You get 10 throws per match and depending on how close to the bullseye you stick your axe, you can earn anywhere between 1-6 points per throw. For the fifth and tenth shots of each match, you can also “call the killshot” and aim for one of two blue circles on the board, which are worth 8 points each. Whoever has the most points at the end of each match wins. 

The WATL then takes the results of matches from across its 125+ affiliated locations and creates a global leaderboard, based on metrics such as how accurate each competitor is, how often they get a bullseye, how often they get a killshot, etc.


The Fairfax location will offer leagues and Zelaya encourages locals to join a league, calling them a great way to meet new people.

“The best deal you can get is to join a league. You get to throw for a couple hours every week for 8 week and you’re essentially getting it at a grossly discounted rate.” 

League members also have the chance to qualify for the World Championship, which takes place each December and is televised on ESPN. “We have people who have only been throwing for 3-4 months that have excelled so quickly and done so great that they’re going to be the world championship,” Zelaya says.

Axe throwing is co-ed and completely inclusive, Zelaya says. “We don’t care who you are…Here, everyone is completely equal, and I think that’s what makes the community so great. We have people from all walks of life coming together weekly. We have people who are in their early twenties hanging out with people who are in their 50s or 60s and they’re close buddies.”  

Coming to Virginia

Zelaya is excited about Bad Axe’s arrival in Virginia. The company has been in the Washington D.C. area for close to two years and has long been wanting to expand into the Commonwealth.

“We had always been looking at Fairfax County, it was always of interest to us…We wanted to be more accessible to a lot of people who were driving 45 minutes to an hour to get to our Washington D.C. location. We knew the demand was there.” 

Zelaya expects the Fairfax location to open by mid-August at the latest, and says the company will hold an open house, where they’ll offer axe throwing for free and have coaches present to train anyone who shows up. 

Zelaya expects 2,000-4,000 people to show up to the open house and is excited about launching the Fairfax location with an open house. “It allows us to open our doors to the community and for the community to get an idea of what axe throwing is at no cost.”

Bad Axe Fairfax will be located at 2985 District Ave #195, Fairfax, VA and will be fully licensed to serve beer and wine. It will host competitive leagues, birthday parties, bachelor/bachelorette parties, and corporate & team building events. 

As for pricing, walk-ins will run $23.96 per person per hour while reservations for groups of six or more will cost $39.25 each and cover two hours of axe throwing. The location also has a corporate rate for groups of 31 or more, which is $35 per person for two hours of axe throwing.

While the Fairfax Bad Axe location will be the company’s first in Virginia, it won’t be the last. Bad Axe plans to open a location in Richmond later this year. 

  • Keya Vakil

    Keya Vakil is the deputy political editor at COURIER. He previously worked as a researcher in the film industry and dabbled in the political world.

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