London has long been the home of many a new and eccentric pasttime, from silent discos to bottomless brunches to Doga (dog yoga…). But for those of us longing for something a little more …, you can now satisfy your Viking urges in – where else? – East London.
This is why nearly two months ago my friend Laura and I found ourselves spending a warm August evening in a converted covered market in Whitechapel playing around with axes. Whistlepunks Urban Axe Throwing opened in May, and has been the mecca of every lumberjack wannabe from Notting Hill to Cockfosters ever since.
Laura and I do like a bit of an alternative day out, so this was right up our street. We found our way to Whistlepunks via a quick drink at The Blind Beggar pub, which has a dark history as the pub in which the gangster Ronnie Kray (of Kray Twins fame) shot George Cornell in 1966. It was just the one though, as unsurprisingly you are not allowed to turn up to wield axes half-cut!
We were put into a group with three other people, but this was a small group and we turned up early, so we made the most of our time to enjoy the experience. None of us had any prior experience in axe-throwing (does anyone?), though the only man in our group told us that he is part of a horseback combat/archery group in Hemel Hempstead. Which Laura and I both really want to try out now…
We began by familiarising ourselves with the axe itself to start with – it has a surprisingly familiar anatomy to humans – before getting familiarised with the throws themselves. The standard throw is two-handed, and starts behind the back, arcing over your head and rotating through the air before burying itself in the wooden board. We all practiced for a while, before committing ourselves to a tournament between the five of us, and rounding off with a few trick shots, specifically one-handed throws, underhand shots and throwing two axes at once.
Now, let me just put it out there that Laura is an axe-throwing menace. She is Queen of Axes, wielding them with ferocity and precision and putting every single one of us to shame. Our instructor, Jordan, even had to have a throw-off with her, just the two of them, to prove to himself that he could beat her! We were all very impressed – I did have videos of her, but I don’t know how to upload them on here so you will just have to take my word for it that she was awesome.
I really enjoyed axe-throwing, though I found it far harder than I expected! It’s all about technique, how you lean back, then rock forward and the amount of power in your throw and how you direct it. Compared to Laura, who had the consistency and accuracy of a sniper, I was more like a machine gun going off at random, striking a good hit every now and then and the rest wildly off course! However, we did nail an awesome trick, where we both walked towards the target in time with each other, threw our individual axes in unison and both hit the target at the same time. I only wish I’d got a photo or a video of it, as it was truly epic.
Whistlepunks is not especially cheap (£29 per person for a session), but it is such a unique, fun night out that it’s worth splashing the cash for the experience. It would be a great date idea/work night out/stag or hen do, or just for stress busting!