By Steve Hill – Rattling Chains staff
The island nation of Jamaica – home of reggae, coastal beauty, and Olympic champion Usain Bolt – at first does not seem like the source of inspiration for a burgeoning disc golf company.
Indeed, the country boasts zero proper disc golf courses.
For the minds behind Small Axe Disc Golf Co., though, vacations to the country have provided a mindset and energy that they have brought back stateside and injected into their products.
Billed by founder Damon Neth as a “disc golf lifestyle and products company,” Small Axe in the past year has introduced three products to market, all geared toward, as the company’s art director puts it, the “disc-nerd” in every player.
From the Puck – an interlocking putter and driver mini set that can hold coins, first aid kits, and anything else you can think of – to Chucker’s Chalk, which packages grip chalk into a disc golf bag-friendly bottle – Small Axe is aiming to bring players products that combine innovation and function, all while maintaining the core reason most people pick up a disc in the first place – fun.
“It started a long time ago with the feeling that disc golf could benefit from a positive, joyful brand that celebrated the fun and cooperative spirit of disc golf,” Neth said.
After coming to enjoy interlocking minis, Neth dreamed up the idea of a putter and driver hooking together as something that would be more appealing to consumers, he said.
“When I moved this design forward, I literally could only think of this as a Small Axe product,” he said.
What resulted was the Fat Bwai putter and Ratchet driver, the two pieces that combine to form the Puck.
And while one of the two pieces is indeed a driver, how the discs fly ended up being less important than how the set worked together for storage.
“I think it was a must-have that they function really well as a container, first and foremost,” Small Axe art director Zachary Kelbaugh said. “We didn’t set out to make the best-flying minis ever, obviously by making them a utility set, but we did test throw them. The Fat Bwai was surprisingly great in the air.”
The utility goes beyond simple storage, though. The set is virtually watertight, floats in water, and is made of food grade plastic.
“I eat snacks off them all the time,” Kelbaugh joked.
The interlocking mini concept is expanding – literally – this holiday season, as Small Axe will introduce the Breddah, an expansion ring that will fit in between the two existing pieces of the Puck to make a larger storage space.
And when it came time to conceive of the branding for said products, Neth and his wife’s trips to Jamaica called out as a source of inspiration.
“Every time we’ve left Jamaica, we’ve felt more positive, so channeling this feeling and energy was natural for us,” Neth said.
Plus, disc golf’s current place in the public consciousness also seemed to mesh with an old Jamaican mindset.
“’Small Axe’ is a Jamaican colloquialism that speaks to the struggle of the little guy against the giants. ‘If you are a big tree, I am a small axe,’” Neth said. “I feel disc golf in general is a small axe, struggling for that mainstream recognition that I think many disc golfers feel is overdue.”
This mentality has found its way into the overall branding and concepts the company continues to create.
“I really like the Jamaican theme of the whole brand,” Kelbaugh said. “All the stuff in Jamaica is hand-crafted and you can see care in it, and those are the qualities I appreciate in stamps and design.”
But the Jamaican feel goes beyond more than the artwork, Kelbaugh said.
“It’s there in the attitude, like naming a putter ‘Fat Bwai,’” he said. “There’s a very Jamaican-like pride in disc golf, doing your thing with absolute love, not really caring is it’s not the way to do things.
“Disc golfers make their own paradise,” he continued. “And part of our paradise is storing things in a Frisbee.”
Or a backpack, as Small Axe just introduced a low-priced cooler backpack to market this week.
And as the company continues to grow, no product idea is off the table.
“We’re looking at Small Axe as a very open-ended brand,” Kelbaugh said. “If it’s something we’d dig for our disc-nerd lifestyle, it’s up for discussion.”
Steve Hill is the associate editor for Rattling Chains. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @OneMileMore.