In a recent outing, the Axis Automation Engineering team dove into one of the trendier activities I've come across in the past few years. I'm sure that you've figured by the title that I'm not talking about Paint Nite or CrossFit - we hit up Urban Axes, a relative newcomer to Somerville. What started off as a Canadian fad has now become one of the more popular hangout events around; Urban Axes alone has locations in six US cities. It quickly became clear to us what all of the fuss was about: Sharp axes, cold beer, and the thrill of competition is a powerful combination.
Our group started out with some instruction with Will, who acted both as coach and referee. Each person learned how to throw first with two hands overhead, then with one hand over the shoulder. We saw varying success – everything from some early bullseyes to axes bouncing straight off the board and landing back at our feet.
After everyone had their practice time, we learned the scoring rules. This picture illustrates the point values, but the trick is that more than 50% of the axe blade needed to be on the inside of a ring in order for it to count for that score. Each player throws five axes in a round, and on the fifth (and only the fifth) throw, the player can elect for a "clutch" throw. This means that if they hit one of the green circles at the top of the board, they would score seven points; an axe anywhere else on the target counted as zero.
From my perspective, throwing the axe for accuracy felt something like grabbing a dart by the tail and hurling it at a dart board: less point and shoot, and more about trying to get a consistent smooth motion and hoping for the best.
After many rounds of tournament play, our final remaining competitors exchanged points in opposing rounds, leaving them tied with 1 match apiece. After four throws on the final round, Sean was ahead and Jacob's only hope of a win was a clutch throw. He stepped up to the line, aimed his toss, and threw what looked to be a very close axe that fell just short. While the whole group shouted in excitement for the close play, our referee hurried up to the board to check, and threw his hands up in the air to declare Jacob the winner! Everyone rushed forward to see the winning axe for themselves, but it quickly became apparent that this win was by a hair – a contentious hair at that. Over the group's murmuring, our ref explained that the axe only had to break the surface to score a point, much like a football has to break the plane to score a touchdown, though the ball itself doesn't need to land in the endzone. Win or lose, it was an exciting finale, but we'll let you be the final judge.
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