Among the signs of fall in Richmond: sweater wearing, pumpkin spice latte sipping, apple picking, and the latest addition — axe throwing.
Indeed, the city’s axe-throwing scene is booming, and the latest, Shield N Sheath on Altamont Avenue in Scott’s Addition, joins a growing number of hatchet houses that allow patrons to get in touch with their wild side against a wooden target.
Shield N Sheath also offers knife throwing, with an additional claim to fame: Owner and instructor Daniel Pegg is nationally renowned in the activity.
His knife-throwing career began nearly a decade ago when a friend brought some equipment over for a backyard hangout. It started as just a summer activity, but before long, Pegg was researching competitions. One of his first big showings was at the U.S. National, a pro-am event in Las Vegas.
“My wife thought I was crazy, going to Vegas to compete,” Pegg said.
But he did well, and it only got him more excited about the competitive aspect of the sport.
Now, Pegg is a member of the Team USA knife and axe throwing team. As a top all-around thrower, he was the only pro at the 2018 World Championships to finish in the top five in all events. He finished third in no-spin knife throwing — a discipline that developed out of Japanese shuriken techniques, where the knife, predictably, is always directed at its target.
Currently, he ranks second globally in no-spin and third in conventional knife throwing.
“No-spin was something I was specializing in for a while,” Pegg said. “Taking that third and getting an [International Knife Throwers Hall of Fame] belt buckle was always a goal of mine, and now that I’ve achieved that, I can exhale and focus a bit more on rotational throwing, too.”
As an instructor, Pegg teaches all approaches to throwing. Like any sport, throwing depends on hours of precise training and muscle memory, with proper equipment. Proper competition knives, for instance, are not sharp, and have a standardized weight and length.
But it’s also an accessible activity for late starters. Pegg, who works in finance in his “real life,” began in his 40s.
“I have friends from all walks of life, any level, profession, economic status, you name it,” Pegg said.
And after a hiatus due to the pandemic, Pegg plans to return to international competition with the Italian National Championship during the first week of October.
Later that month, the pro-am Virginia State Axe and Knife Throwing Championships will return, starting at 9 a.m. Oct. 30 at The Virginia Axe Company on Commerce Center Drive in Goochland.
In addition to those two locations, enthusiasts can wield an axe at Stumpy’s Hatchet House on Stony Point Parkway in Richmond.
A fourth company, Bad Axe Throwing, has closed its Scott’s Addition location.
Axe throwing is originally a Canadian sport/recreational activity, and most venues offer alcohol and other drinks.
Bad Axe Throwing is one of the founders of the venue concept. CEO Mario Zelaya started the Canadian company in 2014 with one location in Burlington, Ontario, to test the idea of bringing a Canadian backyard hobby to the masses.
“It ended up we were booked up about eight weeks in advance, so we started expanding quite rapidly across Canada,” Zelaya said. “There’s nothing else like [axe throwing] out there.”
Bad Axe Throwing ventured into the U.S. in 2016. It now operates more than two dozen locations in North America, with the largest concentration in the States.
And while knife throwers can still be lone wolves at times, Pegg said having common ground, either at events or throwing houses, brings the community together.
“Richmond is definitely becoming a throwing hub of all kinds ... and when we all get together, it’s just amazing the things that these people can do — that these kids can do,” Pegg said. “There’s a real kindred community behind it.”
Where to throw knives and axes in the area:
- Shield N Sheath — 1511 Altamont Ave. in Richmond
- Stumpy’s Hatchet House — 9200 Stony Point Parkway in Richmond
- The Virginia Axe Company — 2305 Commerce Center Drive in Rockville