CONCORD, N.C. (QUEEN CITY NEWS) – When you think of an axe, you might have visions of Paul Bunyan, the legendary lumberjack. Urban axe-throwing is male-dominated, but more women are taking up the sport.
At Gibson Mill in Concord, folks seem almost eager to give you the axe. You might even say it’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas.
“I’m very passionate about the sport,” said axe-thrower Ashlyn Lampela-Christmas. “I love it, so I want other people to love it just as much.”
Lampela-Christmas is the co-owner of Iron Axe Society inside the sprawling refurbished mill complex. She also wants to be an ambassador for the sport, especially for women. One of the proteges she coaches is fellow competitor Lauren Lentz.
“Do all your axes live in Texas?” I asked Lentz.
That might be the last axe pun in this story, but I doubt it. Seriously folks…
“It’s a great stress reliever,” Lentz told Queen City News.
Lentz is top 10 among women in the World Axe Throwing League, while Lampela-Christmas is ranked one of the top five females in the WATL. This month at the WATL USA Pro-Am in Appleton, Wisconsin, Lampela-Christmas placed an impressive 29th overall out of 206 competitors.
“When you go travel to other places, it’s not a lot of women,” said Lentz. “It’s definitely male-dominated.”
“I think that there’s still a stigma around throwing, where you have to throw as fast as you can and it’s a very macho thing, and that’s not true at all,” Lampela-Christmas says.
Her approach may not be “macho,” but you can’t dispute her toughness.
When Lampela-Christmas first started throwing, she loved it so much, it hurt.
“I was constantly in pain,” she explained. “What was harder for me is that I had a shoulder injury, and so I would dislocate my shoulder whenever I would throw.”
“I think my record was, I dislocated it 17 times in one day,” Lampela-Christmas said. “It was pretty bad.”
Years of cheerleading, including in high school and college, took a toll. Last year, she had rotator cuff surgery to ease the pain.
Lampela-Christmas taught herself to flick the axe with her wrist to lessen the burden on her shoulder. Then she taught Lentz the one-handed approach.
“I could just see the fire in her and so I pulled her aside and told her, ‘If you’re going to flick, you’re going to flick the right way,’” says Lampela-Christmas.
“She’s had a lot of injuries and she hasn’t let that stop her, she just found a way to overcome it,” Lentz said.
They’re also partners in dual competition, which requires them to launch the hatchet at the same time.
Lampela-Christmas’ long-term target is to encourage more females to throw their axes into the ring.
“We’ve actually found the lighter your throw, the easier it is,” she says.
Growing the sport means mentoring ladies she may lose to someday.
Maybe that’s just the Christmas spirit.
“Be that person that makes people fall in love with something,” said Lampela-Christmas.