The art of axe throwing dates back to the Middle Ages, when soldiers and knights used the iron weapons in combat. There is debate as to when the skill first turned into a non-lethal competition: Some say it started with Celtic tribes, while others maintain it was North American frontiersmen.
Axe throwing has been popular in many lumberjack competitions for decades, but over the past 20 years, the battle technique turned sporting event has become popular urban entertainment. Now, after a much-delayed opening, Bad Axe Throwing has come to Downtown Long Beach.
“It’s grown pretty rapidly,” Operations Manager Zach Parker said. “It started as just some guys throwing axes out in the woods, guys throwing axes in the garage, and now it’s a really fun recreational activity found in cities all over the country.”
Bad Axe founder and CEO Mario Zelaya started the Canadian company in 2014. It now has 33 locations, according to the company website, including eight in Canada, two in the United Kingdom and 23 across the U.S.
Long Beach is the company’s first Los Angeles County location and the fourth in the state, with others in Fresno, San Diego and San Francisco.
In addition to Bad Axe, Zelaya founded the World Axe Throwing League in 2017.
Located at 245 Pine Ave., unit 290 above Chipotle, the new location is one of the company’s larger spaces, according to Parker. It includes seven lanes, each with two targets separated by a divider.
Each lane has its own axe-throwing coach who goes over rules and safety guidelines before customers can unleash on the cottonwood boards and painted targets, which must be changed out every few days, according to Parker. The coaches also teach people games such as Cricket, 21 and Horse.
People must sign waivers to participate but Parker said over nearly a decade of business, accidents are exceedingly rare due to the fact that throwers are monitored by coaches. Additionally, the specialty axes—both hatchet and full size—are WATL regulation, which are designed specifically for throwing.
The larger axe, as well as 14-inch throwing knives, are an additional charge on top of the initial fee that runs from $28 per person to $42 per person.
Pre-booked groups must include at least six people, which includes a coach and lane for an hour and a half for $42 per person. Additional lanes can be reserved for larger groups such as birthday, bachelor or bachelorette parties, or corporate events.
There is no minimum group size for walk-ins, who enjoy a cheaper rate of $28 per person, but they could be saddled with wait time and the cover charge is only good for 45 minutes.
The company does offer a special birthday rate of $21, good any time during a person’s birthday week, Parker said.
Groups of six or more people can pre-book online or take their chances as a walk-in, which could include a wait. Larger groups should book appointments online.
Beer and wine will be available for purchase in the coming weeks, Parker said.
“This is a fun thing that anyone … can do,” Parker said, noting it’s one of the very few entertainment options in the area in a similar vein as bowling—an activity the city of Long Beach does not have. Bad Axe joins Birdies N Brews, the city’s first and only indoor golf bar, which opened nearby in September 2021.
“You can grab a drink and get competitive with your friends and have some fun,” Parker said.
Long Beach, however, is the company’s first location with an age restriction of 21 and older, he said, due to local laws and regulations.
For now, the Long Beach location is only accepting pre-booked groups as construction wraps on the finishing touches and training continues for the new coaches. By the end of the month, the branch should be ready to serve up beer and wine to walk-ins from 5 to 11 p.m. seven days per week, Parker said.
“We’ve been waiting on Long Beach for a while,” Parker said, noting the company has had the location secured since 2019. “COVID put a stop to our opening and we’ve been waiting around for the right time to get back into the game.”
Since signage went up, people have stopped in repeatedly to ask when the space would be opening and voice their approval of new entertainment in Downtown, Parker said. “People seem excited about it.”