Nearly 30 years ago, a knife-throwing hobby led Jeff Hall to enlist in the U.S. Army and serve during Operation Desert Storm. When he came home, he was changed, but it took 25 years before he was diagnosed with Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD.)
While treatments exist to relieve the symptoms of the disorder that the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs estimates affects about 12 in every 100 veterans of the Gulf War, Hall says they didn’t work well for him.
That changed about four years ago, though, when he re-discovered his old hobby. He started doing online research and discovered the growing popularity of axe throwing. It’s difficult to say how many people enjoy the sport, but it’s been called one of the fastest-growing sports in the world, according to the International Axe Throwing Federation.
The Federation’s 10,000 members practice the sport in 125 cities and six countries.
Owner Jeff Hunt says it only takes a few minutes to review safety tips and technique before customers can begin throwing axes at targets inside his club.
The sport is similar to darts. Competitors throw hatchets at targets hoping to hit the bullseye.
For Hall, the simple game was life changing.
“This gave me a way to calm my mind down,” Hall explains. “It gave me something to focus on. It gave me that element of danger. It really helped. All of the sudden, I became a new person.”
He built an axe-throwing range in his garage and invited family and friends over. Before, he was a bit of a recluse. When he started showing other people how to enjoy the sport, he discovered he was a good teacher. “For some reason, I could actually teach and talk to people.”
While he was discovering the therapeutic benefits of the sport, he was also renting out a building he owned. The dog groomer who rented the building decided to leave. Hall saw the opportunity to open his own business.
In September, he opened up the UnderGround Axe Club
at 607 Lafayette Ave. Since then, he’s been busy. He runs a Thursday night league, which quickly filled. He’s making plans now to start another league in a few weeks.
The axe-throwing facility also is open to individuals and for private parties. No experience is necessary. When you walk in, the first thing that happens is a 10- to 15-minute lesson.
“We’ll show you the safety protocols, then we’ll go over the techniques, and then I’ll let you throw,” Hall says. “It’s a pretty short learning curve.”
The cost varies depending on how long you plan to throw. An hour is $20 per person and two hours is $30 per person. Reservations are available online and participants are invited to bring their own food or drinks.
Hall is excited to help other people discover the sport that he finds both therapeutic and enjoyable.
“This was the only treatment I felt helped calm me down and still gave me that edge,” he says.