I didn't kill anyone, though I thought I might.
Since I was hurling an ax across the room.
There I was on a Saturday afternoon, standing in what looked like a batting cage lined with a protective chainlink fence and green foam flooring to absorb the blows.
But instead of a baseball bat and ball, the sporting equipment of choice was an ax and target.
The Charleston area's first ax-throwing venue, aptly named Chucktown Axe Throwing, opened its doors on April 12. I paid a visit the following weekend.
Chucktown Axe Throwing is attached to the front side of Rusty Bull Brewing Co. in North Charleston. There's a decorated wall by the entryway that includes a mounted bear head, deer antlers and wood-paneled artwork to fit the rustic theme. Rows of ax-throwing cages are lined up inside featuring what you might think of as giant, wooden dart boards or archery targets.
It's part of a trend that's sweeping the nation and already has come to Charleston in small doses thanks to Blade and Bull, an ax-throwing party pop-up, which currently operates on-demand but is set to open a full-time storefront in Park Circle this year.
And things have gone wrong a few times, with a couple of reported injuries, though there have been no fatalities. Yet.
This April, Vice covered an almost-fatal moment when an ax bounced back and nearly beheaded its thrower at a Colorado ax-throwing bar. The video went viral and made skeptics of the venture even more wary.
Derek Giannola, general manager and safety instructor at Chucktown Axe Throwing, cited that video before explaining that the Charleston venue had installed foam mats instead of rubber mats, as seen in the video, to minimize the bounce-back effect.
It's just one safety precaution that Chucktown Axe Throwing has taken to prevent mishaps while fostering fun, he says.
Past the axes and through an open door near the back of the venue is Rusty Bull Brewing's taproom, raising a few concerns. Beer and ... axes ... together?
Owner Jason Pap says his staff won't hand out axes to just anyone. During the three weeks the storefront has been open, he's already had to turn away a few too-tipsy guests looking for an ax-throwing fix to accompany their buzzes.
However, Pap says most patrons have been responsible with their alcohol intake, and a little liquid courage can in fact help throwers loosen up.
"You need to relax when you're throwing. You can't be super tense," he says.
Shiny silver ax blades and smaller hatchets are provided to participants after an in-depth safety lesson. In the introductory segment, Giannola shows attendees the tree stumps used to store axes safely (blade-deep) between throws, the caution tape line on the floor that only the current ax thrower should cross while in motion and the one-handed versus two-handed throwing methods.
The two-handed overhead toss is what he recommends for beginners looking for something a little more stable. The one-handed method is often used by experts, a few of whom Giannola says have stopped by the new venue every day since it's opened.
"We have a few people who have brought their own custom-built axes," he adds.
Yet, for most, ax-throwing isn't something immediately grasped. It's a little more complicated than throwing a dart, and there's more of a learning curve. Because of the rotation of the ax, there's a good chance the blade won't actually stick into the wooden target. Often, the handle will hit instead. I found that out during my first dozen throws; I couldn't get a single one to stick.
"A lot of people get discouraged at first, but you've got to get into the swing of it," Giannola said.
Another thing: axes are a lot heavier than you think. You've got to use a lot of momentum when chucking them. But that first stick is super exciting. It wasn't long before I was landing bulls-eyes. (If I can do it, you can do it — trust me!)
One group of couples was throwing during the same time I was testing the waters. They had booked a lane as part of an afternoon outing.
"I didn't know how I felt about it at first," said one 27-year-old woman in the group, Nicole Skosnik, who works as a VA nurse. "I was kind of scared. Definitely, the first throw I was scared." But she got the hang of it. "I will be back for sure," she said. "Anyone can do it."
Trevor Pham said that something primal took over as soon as he picked up the ax.
"My inner Viking woke up," he said.
It costs $25 per person to throw axes for an hour at Chucktown Axe Throwing, and Pap recommends booking larger parties in advance, since the lanes have been filling up quickly, especially at nights and on weekends. On a busy day, Pap said he might replace the wooden targets one or two times.
"Once the sun goes down, people want to throw weapons," he said with a shrug.
While older children are allowed to participate, Giannola recommends they should be at least 13. While I was there, an 11-year-old was making a go of it. He was doing better than I was.