Lawyer from Ashburn has ‘kick axe’ side gig

Suzie Bassett is a lawyer by day, but when she needs to unwind she reaches for her axes.

“The joke is that axe throwing is cheaper than therapy because it is pretty therapeutic,” said Bassett, as she lounged in a chair at Axes and Os in Sterling, Virginia.

She described it as her yoga. And when it comes to axe throwing, she’s really, really good at it.

“I’ve been axe throwing for three years now, and this year I’ve become the No. 1 ranked female axe thrower in the world with the World Axe Throwing League,” she said.

Of course, it’s not something that tends to draw a bunch of women, but even if you include men, Bassett of Ashburn sits just outside of the top 50 out of 5,000 axe throwers around the world.

Bassett started throwing axes at a happy hour in D.C. and realized she was pretty good at it. She started entering leagues and won the first five in a row she competed in. Now she throws regularly at Axes and Os.

Just like when she pitched in softball, she likes the repetition needed so that your muscles instinctively know how to repeat the mechanics in order to maintain the consistency needed to be good. But at the same time, there’s no right or wrong way to throw, though if you’re taller you might throw with one arm bringing the axe up to around your shoulder level. If you’re short, throwing with two hands over your head might be the easier way to reach the target.

Also, to throw it well, you don’t have to throw it as hard as you’d think, even though the targets are made out of wood, the axe blades only need a gentle toss. Throw it too hard and it’ll bounce back toward you. And while you’re standing 12 feet away, it probably won’t come all the way back to maim you.

In December, she’ll head to Appleton, Wisconsin, to compete in the world championships.

She’s also ranked high enough to be considered a “professional” axe thrower.

“I’ve won probably around $4,000 last year in prize money” at various tournaments, she said. “I can’t quit my day job yet.”

In fact, only a handful of throwers do make enough to live off of.

As time has gone on, Bassett has made a name for herself in the axe throwing community, and though the men she competes against always try their best to beat her, she’s noticed a change in their motivations.

“When I first started throwing not many men knew who I was,” said Bassett. “I’d go to a tournament and then when I would win you’d see a few guys get a little upset. I saw actually throw his entire backpack across the floor after I won a tournament because he didn’t know who I was. Now I’m pretty well known…and because I’m a pro and there aren’t many pros, I’ve noticed a lot of men want to beat me because I’m a pro, not because I’m a woman.

“At this point a lot of people want to play me and want to beat me because I’m a good thrower and not just because I’m a woman,” she said.

She also enjoys the social aspect of standing around a bar and throwing axes around. It’s a good way to make friends, and it’s how the 35-year-old also met her boyfriend.

“Every time he comes home and there’s another axe that I bought online he wonders if he did something wrong or if I’m just trying something new,” she laughed.

Scoring in axe throwing is similar to darts, with six points for each bullseye hit and one less point for each ring the farther you go out from there. There are also two dots in each of the upper corners worth eight points.

The highest score you can get is a 64. She averages 55.9 points, good enough for 53rd in the world.

“A good average is above a 52 or 50,” she said. “The best thrower in the world is around a 59 or 60 average.”

Most people start around 20 or 30 points per game.

Now, as much as she enjoys that hour where she can forget about work and unwind with her axe, Bassett said competing in events like the upcoming World Championships bring on a level of stress she wasn’t expecting.

“That’s one of the things I’ve had to work on for myself as a thrower is learning how to overcome that stress and control a lot of those emotions that you have in the moment,” said Bassett. “That was the biggest barrier for me at the beginning, figuring out how to get rid of that stress and learn how to throw through it.”

She credits a book for teaching her how to channel that stress positively, which is good, since when she goes to the World Championships in Appleton, the finals will be televised on ESPN and the winner will go home with $50,000.

“This means I’m supposed to be focused and I kind of use that as a recognition of ‘this is what it’s supposed to be like in the moment and everyone’s stressed and that’s good that I am feeling that.'”

John Domen

John started working at WTOP in 2016 after having grown up in Maryland listening to the station as a child. While he got his on-air start at small stations in Pennsylvania and Delaware, he's spent most of his career in the D.C. area, having been heard on several local stations before coming to WTOP.

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