When Shannon Hurley saw the frustration in the little boy’s face, she knew it was her time to shine. Hurley works at Battle Axe where she helps customers master the art of throwing axes toward a target. The boy was struggling until she stepped in.
“The kid couldn’t stick the axe for the life of him,” Hurley said.
After some careful instruction and the promise of candy, the boy hit a bullseye. His reluctance vanished and every subsequent toss came with a smile.
Hurley said helping customers like that is what makes her job so much fun.
When Hurley trains a new customer, she follows these steps: go over the safety rules; train the customer on how to grip the axe correctly; give a demonstration. After that, she observes the customers throwing, and when she feels they are ready, she lets them throw on their own.
“I like the fact that I get to teach little kids how to throw weapons,” Hurley said. “It’s definitely not a thing that you would think is in SLO. It’s super fun to watch kids get super excited when they stick the axe.”
Encouraging kids to chuck sharp weapons may seem iffy, but Battle Axe, which opened in downtown SLO in June, has a strict set of rules to keep everyone safe. A rule board posted prominently on the wall lists them for all to see, including the rules: it’s axe throwing, not axe catching; stay in safety areas; one axe at a time; no axes outside the fence.
Aspiring axe tossers must be at least 8 years old, but co-owner Shelley Stuckey said she and her husband Neal Stuckey aim to empower guests of all kinds.
“We wanted to create a downtown environment where everybody feels welcome,” Stuckey said.
That includes guests of all ages throwing side by side.
“My daughter is 15 and my dad is 77,” Stuckey said. “They can come in here and be on a fair playing field and sit there and throw axes for hours.”
The venue was designed to feel welcoming to everyone, Stuckey said. White walls brighten the room, a logo with two women wearing neon yellow and pink holding axes decorates the wall. Quirky signs saying “maybe swearing will help” and “be kind” are scattered over the venue. Spray-painted graffiti says “kick axe let the battle begin.”
Stuckey said she wanted to focus on the logo in particular because she didn’t want her business to appear prominently masculine.
“We drew the inspiration of myself and my daughter being multiracial and wanting to empower women,” Stuckey said.
Customer Megan Perry went on a date to Battle Axe and it was her first experience. She said she was wary of the experience going in, but after Perry said her battle axe experience was so much fun.
“When I went to Battle Axe I felt welcomed as a woman because women were there teaching me how to throw an axe,” said Perry. “I would definitely go again with some friends. It made me feel overwhelmed throwing an axe at first, but after you get the hang of it and play some games with your friends you get over that fear.”
Battle Axe, located at 691 Higuera Street, has eight lanes for throwing that visitors can reserve online or by phone. Lanes fill up fast on Friday and Saturday nights, Stuckey said.
Sessions cost $30 to $40 per person and can last one to two hours.