Axe throwing takes off across NI as the ideal way to restore personal calm

Fed up with global news and local politics? Is your work life too stressful? Well, according to Ryan Lyttle the solution to all your problems might just be axe throwing.

By Philip Bradfield
Wednesday, 11th August 2021, 6:30 am

The Lisburn man has been running Urban Axe throwing on the Balmoral Road, just off the Lisburn Road in Belfast, since September - and demand has been high.

Asked what the attraction is - in light of the fact that it sounds a bit brutal and dangerous - Ryan laughs.

“I think that is exactly the attraction,” he says. “It is a bit brutal and dangerous. But when do you ever get the opportunity to throw an axe safely at a wooden target in a controlled environment?

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Axe throwing has become a popular leisure activity across NI, seen here at the Axe Yard Urban Axe Throwing in Belfast.

“I think there is the stress element as well - a lot of people are just wanting that adrenalin or stress busting activity.

“And certainly axe throwing gives you that. Once you hear the thud of your axe going into that target it is quite a satisfying feeling - especially when people are hitting bullseyes. There is a real good buzz.”

Ryan spent 22 years with a major food and beverage company but always wanted to run his own business.

His first venture was the ‘Prison Island’ concept from Sweden, in which contestants tackle a series of ingenious challenges in a giant fantasy world.

After launching his 25 room maze, he decided he needed to develop the business further.

“I had been researching what would complement it and ultimately I decided on axe throwing because I could see how big it was getting across the US and Canada and I knew it was popping up across the UK.”

He thinks there are up to four businesses across NI offering the activity.

“At the moment the activity is particularly popular for stag and hen groups. I am also surprised by the number of women coming along, groups of two to six.”

Sessions last about an hour with 15 to 20 minutes practise to start. After that the competition and games start.

“It is more about technique than power. You are wanting the axe to do one rotation - otherwise the handle or top of the head will hit the wood.”

The coaches are trained to help players adjust where they are holding the handle and their distance from the target - two key factors which must be just right in order to bury the axe head in the target.

“I have been surprised at the number of people who come in and tell us that they have built their own axe target at home with some timber. I reply, ‘Really? You want to watch out for the neighbours!’”. He notes that the sport is becoming very popular online.”

“The thing that surprises people most is that they can stick it on the board and that quite a lot of them hit bullseyes. That is a real satisfying feeling.

“It is not about having loads of power - lots of smaller people and women are certainly able to throw them.

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