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Why you should never piss off an ax-thrower

Two+axes+rest+against+the+logs%2C+to+be+used+in+the+horizontal+chop+event+Oct+7.
Collegian | Julia Percy
Two axes propped against the logs to be used in the horizontal chop event Oct 7. The goal of the horizontal chop is to cut a log into two halves while standing atop it. The Colorado State University logging sports team hosted their annual Choptoberfest at the Foothills Campus.

There are a few things in life you just shouldn’t do if you know what’s good for you: poke a sleeping bear, kill John Wick’s dog or piss off a trained lumberjack who is capable of hurling an ax accurately more than a dozen feet.

On the surface, ax-throwing may simply seem like one of the many events held in logging competitions — a simple test of one’s abilities wielding different types of lumberjacking equipment. However, some of the event’s most dedicated athletes use the competition as a way to harness something deeper.

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“I think my favorite thing about ax-throwing is just being able to let out that rage,” CSU logging sports team member Mikaela Lippon said. 

There’s nothing quite like whipping a sharp hunk of steel through the air to release a deep inner anger. For experienced ax-throwers like Lippon, wielding a deadly ax is like second nature. She said her aim might even get better if she’s pissed off. 

“If I start seeing red, it’s over,” Lippon said. “(I’ll hit) that target.”

Don’t think that running will save you either. As the adrenaline pumps into their systems and their minds go blank, many throwers feel their abilities are only heightened. 

“When I’m ready to throw an ax in competition, I’m on my A-game,” logging team member Emma Kucera said. “People should watch out.”

If you’re unlucky enough to meet the rage of an ax-thrower, don’t get your hopes up: It won’t be a quick, sharp kill. These weapons aren’t designed for rapid slicing.

The axes utilized for the sport aren’t perfectly sharpened. Instead, they are cut and designed with one specific task in mind: stick in their target, and don’t let go.

“(The axes) have small notches and ridges in them,” logging coach Riley Knapp said. “If you have an ax fitted with those on it, it’s not coming out.”

As the weapons aren’t razor sharp, throwers instead ensure their throws are executed with high levels of strength and precise technique to give the axes enough power to wedge themselves firmly into whatever target they’re aimed toward. 

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Knapp didn’t mince words when he described how a logger makes certain their ax embeds itself into the target.

“You want to be pretty powerful with (the throw),” Knapp said. “You’ve got to give it some fucking gas.”

The event itself is an open competition, meaning any logger can participate without losing the ability to participate in other events. This means that nearly every member of the team has been trained in the usage of the long-distance weapon.

For many, once they learn the art of ax-throwing, there’s no going back. They constantly return, seeking out that primal release once more.

“There’s definitely a notable dopamine rush when you throw a bull’s-eye,” logging vice president Jacob Guggenhime said. 

At the end of every practice, the entire team gathers around the targets and takes turns practicing with the ax, perfecting their skills. 

“Everyone is highly encouraged to do it,” Guggenhime said.

For many veteran members of the team, this means they have been practicing ax-throwing for years upon end. The event itself has become second nature to them.

If there’s one person who might be worse to piss off than an ax-thrower, it’s a veteran ax-thrower. 

“There’s some old loggers that spend every weekend doing it,” fourth-year logging member Chris Graham said. “I wouldn’t piss them off while they’ve got an ax in their hands.”

If you’re planning on going out this week for Halloween festivities, make sure you’re careful who you bump into. You might accidentally pick a fight with a trained ax-thrower.

At that point, it may be too late to say your goodbyes.

Will Engle can be reached at sports@collegian.com or on Twitter @willengle44.

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