For The Love of the Game: Axe throwing leaving its mark on Singaporeans

SINGAPORE – When he came across a video of Aquaman star Jason Momoa swigging beer and hurling an axe at a target board in late 2017, a lightbulb went off in Samuel Tey’s head. Within 12 months, he founded Axe Factor, Singapore’s first and only axe throwing range.

Almost three years on since their opening in September 2018, Tey estimates that almost 15,000 individual customers have walked through his centre at The Grandstand in Bukit Timah. About 20 per cent of them have returned more than once.

Such is the growth of the sport here that Tey believes it is ready for the next step of having competitions. The pandemic has slowed down his plans but the 28-year-old entrepreneur is still keen on holding a small-scale event this year, before eventually pulling off a national-level one.

“We’ve already built our customer base, we have the ecosystem and a community of regular throwers,” he reasoned.

“I believe having a competition with prize money will help people start seeing it as a (legitimate) sport.”

Tey is also exploring plans to open more centres across Singapore in the near future, and even has a long-term plan to establish an Asian Federation to grow the sport in the region. Its global body, the International Axe Throwing Federation, focuses heavily on North America, where 109 of its 119 member organisations are located.

Tey’s belief in the universality of axe throwing is based on the demographic of his customers. The sport is not as intimidating as it appears, he insists, adding that Axe Factor’s oldest client was “an 80-year-old grandma”, and one of its regulars is a man in his 70s.

Noted Tey: “It’s all about form. Sometimes you see a person throw for the first time and you can tell they’re a natural. There are customers that come in and stick it on their first try, and others who come in and stick it after 45 minutes – like me. On average though, people take about 20 minutes to get it right.”

Axe Factor regular Eden Yeo, who started axe throwing in 2017, said she enjoys the “adrenaline rush” of the sport and said the idea that the sport is only suited for big, burly men, is a misconception.

“If you come you will see that many of us throwing are girls… Every time you hit the target, there’s this sense of accomplishment,” said the 24-year-old freelancer.

“It’s (also) a way to vent your frustrations and relieve stress without harming or hurting anyone.”

First timers at the range will go through a safety briefing and technique demonstration, and instructors – donning shirts with “Axe-perts” emblazoned on them – will be on hand to observe customers as they throw.

The range, which comprises 12 lanes, is also equipped with closed-circuit television cameras so staff can keep a keen eye on any potential safety issues.

“If after all the demonstrations and reminders a customer is still throwing dangerously, we will ask them to leave. But we have never had to do that,” said Tey.

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What about videos of other ranges overseas that have circulated online of axes bouncing off the target and narrowly missing the thrower?

Tey insisted that would never happen at Axe Factor. Having analysed the videos and incidents, he explained those instances featured axes that had rubber handles, and centres where the flooring was also rubber.

“But at our range, everything we use is wood… If you throw hard enough, the axe will more likely break than bounce. Our running cost is higher, but it’s a lot safer,” he said.

In fact, aside from incorrect throwing techniques, said Tey, the most danger a thrower faces is simply getting splinters.

Safety was a big consideration when Axe Factor was first being conceived, he added, saying that he had regular correspondence with the authorities over “four or five months”, before approval to press on with plans was given.

With the green light, he and a business partner invested about $300,000 in total to get the centre up and running.

The range’s operating costs are between $25,000 and $30,000 a month, which include the cost of replacing the wooden target boards – the centre runs through about 60 of them each month – as well as purchasing various types of axes, which weigh between 1 and 1.75kg and costs from $10 to $70.

Once just a business idea, axe throwing has become a full-fledged passion for Tey. Despite this, he does not throw every day, often only joining in when regulars or friends are at the range to socialise, which is what appealed to him in that video of Momoa in the first place.

“A lot of customers have told me that this is a very refreshing activity to do to chill out, rather than just going for dinner and a movie,” he said.

“I’ve also had people bring clients to the range, and after a few throws and a few drinks, the discussions will flow smoothly… Overall, it’s just a very unique experience.”

If you want to take up axe throwing…

Who: Axe Factor
Website: @axefactorsg
Where: 200 Turf Club Rd, #01-32A The Grandstand, Singapore 287994
Cost: From $30/pax for one hour and $52/pax for two hours for one or two individuals. $80 for one hour for a group of three to five. Packages for private and corporate events also available.
Activities: Learn the proper techniques of throwing and retrieving an axe. Instructors are also on hand to educate participants on scoring.
Only those aged 15 or older are allowed to participate, and footwear with covered-toes are required.

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