‘It’s a rush’

Two An­napo­lis Val­ley axe throw­ers head­ing to Chicago for world cham­pi­onships

Valley Journal Advertiser - - SPORTS - BY COLIN CHISHOLM WWW.HANTSJOURNAL.CA

Their gaze, steely. Grip, pre­cise. The axe, sharp­ened and honed. The wooden tar­get has been freshly misted to pre­vent frac­tures.

Swoosh, swoosh, swoosh — crack! Bull’s-eye.

Fred Ansems and Steve Rex are get­ting their axe-throw­ing arms ready for the world cham­pi­onships in Chicago on Dec. 15, which will be broad­cast on ESPN.

Ansems, a chicken farmer from Steam Mill Vil­lage, only started axe throw­ing a year ago.

He de­cided to give it a try in Oc­to­ber of last year, shortly af­ter Hal­iMac Axe Throw­ing in Kentville opened their doors.

“My daugh­ter tried it in Hal­i­fax and took me here to show me how it’s done,” Ansems said. “I got in here, had a quick lit­tle les­son, and my first throw was a bull’s-eye.”

“It was like, wow,” he said. He signed the Hal­iMac hall of fame poster af­ter his sec­ond game, scor­ing more than 50 points.

“I thought, ‘I might ac­tu­ally have some­thing here.’”

He never thought a year later he’d be trav­el­ing to Chicago for the world cham­pi­onships.

“I didn’t even know if I’d be able to throw it at all, didn’t even dream of do­ing some­thing like trav­el­ing for this,” he said with a laugh. “I don’t quite know what to make of it yet.”

When Ansems is get­ting ready to throw — he’s fo­cus­ing on the top of the bull’s-eye — he knows that his axe drops a lit­tle bit mid­flight.

“Just that one spot, dead cen­tre, just above the bull’s-eye,” he said. “I don’t pay at­ten­tion to any­body else, my op­po­nent, I can’t do any­thing about them, this is what I’ve got to throw.”

Com­pet­i­tive axe throw­ing is still a rel­a­tively young sport this only be­ing the sec­ond year for the world cham­pi­onships, but it’s also grow­ing — fast.

You get 10 axes each game — a bull’s-eye is worth six points, with the outer rings worth four, three, two, and one re­spec­tively. Blue cir­cles on the top left and right-hand side are ‘kill-shots’ that are worth 10 points, but are risky.

It’s a costly en­deav­our too. Flights, ho­tel rooms, and the en­trance fee alone is $600.

And with that, you’re only guar­an­teed 40 axes. That’s a lot of pres­sure.

“I’m a lit­tle ner­vous right now, but I have a feel­ing it’s go­ing to be quite dif­fer­ent once you get there,” he said.

For Ansems, the sport is also a great way to keep ac­tive, af­ter hang­ing up his hockey skates sev­eral years ago.

“I used to play hockey all the time, but it got to the point where you get in­jured and you’ve gotta go to work in the morn­ing,” he said. “I own a farm, so it doesn’t mat­ter if I have a bro­ken leg, I’ve still gotta go check the an­i­mals in the morn­ing.”

In­tro­duc­ing Steve Rex

For Steve Rex, the sec­ond Hal­iMac com­peti­tor who’s go­ing, this will be his sec­ond ma­jor com­pe­ti­tion he’s par­tic­i­pated in, af­ter re­cently par­tic­i­pat­ing in the US Open.

“We’re a very young sport,” Rex said. “But for me, that’s what’s so ex­cit­ing about it. It went from, in the past year, only nine coun­tries with 56 fa­cil­i­ties to 16 coun­tries with 160 fa­cil­i­ties.”

He said it’s a sport that isn’t cost-pro­hib­i­tive.

“It’s a rel­a­tively in­ex­pen­sive sport to get into, and if you get the hang of it and en­joy it, you can go far,” he said. “We’re great ex­am­ples of that.”

Rex, who works at Hal­iMac, was elim­i­nated in the first round of the fi­nals dur­ing the open, but he’s hop­ing to make it a bit fur­ther for the worlds.

One thing he’s learned from that ex­pe­ri­ence is the im­por­tance of stay­ing calm.

“You’ve got a big crowd watch­ing you, a lot of un­fa­mil­iar faces. You’ve got to stay calm,” he said.

“I know the scene a lit­tle bit now and I’m su­per ex­cited to go back,” he con­tin­ued.

“When you start to panic, that’s when you’re more likely to drop an axe, and you drop one axe, that’s enough to lose a game,” he said.

“This time, hav­ing some­body else there with me to cheer me on is go­ing to be great.”

Orig­i­nally from Sackville, Rex moved to Kentville nine years ago. He’s been throw­ing axes for al­most a decade recre­ation­ally, but has been do­ing so com­pet­i­tively since 2017.

“It’s a rush. You’ve got so much go­ing on, you’re meet­ing so many dif­fer­ent peo­ple, and to be able to have these con­ver­sa­tions with oth­ers about tech­niques and about axes, it’s just pure ex­cite­ment,” he said.

Both com­peti­tors say they aren’t ex­pect­ing to leave with the world cham­pi­onship ti­tle, but they are hop­ing to make it past the first round and maybe learn a thing or two.

“I’ve made it happy,” Rex said.

“Just get­ting there is go­ing to be great,” Ansems said.

Rex’s favourite axe is a black Est­wing with a slightly longer han­dle.

Ansem’s favourite is red hatchet, with a slightly shorter han­dle. this far, I’m

No short­age of skill at Hal­iMac

Paul MacIn­nis, owner of Hal­iMac Axe Throw­ing, said the skill level at their lo­ca­tion is quite high.

“There are a lot peo­ple in our league… and the num­ber of peo­ple at our lo­ca­tion that have top scores in the world is very im­pres­sive. We’re su­per proud of that,” MacIn­nis said.

“It’s be­com­ing a sport; the fi­nals are get­ting broad­cast on ESPN, which is a gi­gan­tic step for­ward,” he said.

“Peo­ple are start­ing to take it se­ri­ously,” MacIn­nis added.

“When­ever you’re able to boast that two of your own are head­ing abroad to com­pete at a world event, I think that shines a light on the fa­cil­ity here in Kentville,” he said. “We are so ex­cited to see these two guys down there.”

Peo­ple can fol­low their progress on­line via a livestream that will be posted on the Hal­iMac Face­book page.

Green­wood’s The Lum­ber Yard, another axe throw­ing lo­ca­tion, opened in Septem­ber of this year.

COLIN CHISHOLM

Fred Ansems, left, and Steve Rex both give their favourite axes a throw at Hal­iMax Axe Throw­ing in Kentville.

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