Bob Simpson, Commander of the American Legion Post 130, has been throwing axes since he was a kid. He and Mike Strickler, Second Vice Commander of Post 130, grew up in the City of Falls Church and began throwing axes when they were preteens.
“It’s just one of those things you do when you’re younger,” Simpson said. “We watched cowboys and Indians growing up, you know, and probably got the idea after we saw the Indians with their axes.”
Simpson and Strickler lost touch for a while in their adult years but reunited through the American Legion. Eventually, they began throwing axes again, for fun while hanging out, when they came up with the idea for an ax throwing competition.
So it was a fun, if not personal, gift from Simpson and Strickler to The Little City to start the Lizzie Borden Axe Throwing Competition in 2011.
The Post 130-sponsored competition, jokingly named after the Massachusetts woman who was tried and acquitted of the ax murders of her parents in 1892, is holding its fourth annual event this Saturday and is open to anyone age 18 and older who wants to chuck axes for sport.
For anyone concerned about safety, Simpson and Strickler put in place measures to ensure safety during the event, like using a large backboard to catch any axes that miss the woodblock target.
Another precaution requires only one competitor throw at a time and that the next thrower in line waits to take their turn until the previous thrower retrieves their axes.
The game is most similar to darts, although the projectile being thrown is much larger and potentially more dangerous. Competitors stand 15 feet away from a striped target and throw tomahawk-sized axes, earning points based on accuracy for each ax they lodge into the target.
The field is narrowed after several rounds to three to five competitors, who will be competing for first, second and third place rankings for the first time since the competition started. In previous years, there was only a first place ranking and prize given out. The top prize this year is a tactical tomahawk made by SOG Knives.
Jim Allen of Lincolnia won last year’s Lizzie Borden Axe Throwing Competition with no prior ax-throwing experience. The way that Strickler designed the axes used in the competition, Allen said, made it easy for a novice like him to have fun while remaining competitive.
“They’ve got it set up so that when you throw the ax, it’s almost guaranteed to stick,” Allen said. “You’ve got to really be bad to not to be able stick it…a novice can come in and have success.”
After trying a few different ax-throwing techniques Allen said he stuck with an overhead throw for the most of the competition, using a form similar to the one used by baseball players. Despite the fact that he’ll be trying to defend his title this Saturday, Allen had some advice for any ax-throwing novices.
“Just relax and throw the thing a couple different ways,” Allen said. “And whatever way that makes it stick for you, that’s the way you want to continue doing it. But you also want to keep it in line.”
The fourth annual Lizzie Borden Axe Throwing competition is this Saturday, August 2, at the American Legion Post 130 located at 400 N. Oak St. in Falls Church. Registration and ax throwing and safety instruction will begin at 10 a.m. and the actual contest will start at 11 a.m.