February 16, 2016 - 7:00 AM
HALIFAX - A growing number of people have started living up to the Canadian stereotype of a plaid-wearing lumberjack.
Axe throwing is gaining in popularity, with clubs, leagues and lounges opening everywhere from Alberta to Nova Scotia.
Darren Hudson, co-owner of a new axe-throwing lounge opening soon in Halifax, said the traditional lumberjack sport is captivating Canadians because it's simple and has an immediate payoff.
"It's a very rewarding, enjoyable sport in which people have the opportunity to cast away their cares," said the 38-year-old man, a world champion lumberjack who has been throwing axes for more than three decades. "Axe throwing for a first-timer is a moment they won't forget for the rest of their lives."
The smell of lumber tickles your noise inside the Timber Lounge, where circular targets are attached to a wood-panelled wall.
Hudson staggers his feet one in front of the other and begins to rock back and forth, his hands firmly gripping the base of the axe's handle with his arms stretching straight behind his head. He fixes his eyes on the red, blue, green and white target several metres ahead.
When it feels right, Hudson releases the three and a half pound double bitted axe and watches intently as it spirals through the air and sticks to the bullseye with a satisfying thump.
"It is a sport that anybody can do," said Hudson, wearing thick black-rimmed glasses, a red plaid ball cap and a wiry brown beard. "It's great to watch people achieve what they thought would be so difficult and yet, it is so attainable."
The Ontario-based Bad Axe Throwing recently announced it is opening three new locations in Halifax, Winnipeg and Montreal, and Jack Axes Inc. is preparing to launch soon in St. John's, N.L.
Jesse Gutzman of Bad Axe Throwing, which hosts private events like birthday and bachelor parties, said Canadians are latching onto their lumberjack stereotype.
"It's a real Canadian thing. We don't actually go out into the woods and throw axes around but it is this identity we have, the lumberjack identity. So we're just bringing it indoors and making it really accessible," said Gutzman.
Hudson said lumberjack sports in Nova Scotia date back to the late 1800s, when woodsmen would pit their skills against one another, usually at the end of a river drive when logs were being brought to the sawmill.
At the time, Nova Scotia woodsmen were the best in the industry and were often invited to places like New York and Boston to show off their craft, said Hudson.
"(Axes) have been around for 10,000 years. If technology was to fail and we could only have one thing, this would be the thing that would sustain humanity. It keeps you warm by chopping wood for fire, it can help make shelter, and it can even procure game."
News from © The Canadian Press, 2016