Sledgehammer Sickness: Smash Therapy in Vancouver

Smashing feels good in the moment, but doesn’t feel like it’s helping in the long run

Claire Brnjac // Arts and Culture Editor
Mikaela Johnson // Illustrator

“Think of your ex-boyfriend,” I yelled to my friend as she palmed the 15-pound sledgehammer. Her target was a glass bottle, propped up on three tires. In front of us were thousands upon thousands of glass shards, electronic parts, and assorted pieces of smashed photo frames—it all took up three-quarters of the room we were standing in. My friend, usually a pacifist, looked uncomfortable. She swung with great uncertainty, and I cheered as the sharp remains of the bottle hit the back of the room with a thunk

Smash Therapy, an unassuming squat building near the Richmond Hospital, is dedicated to the complete obliteration of objects. Offering options such as “Bring Your Own Stuff,” where you bring in smashable items of your own devising and smash them to pieces for a low price, or Couples Therapy, a 30-minute session where you smash 25 glass bottles with your choice of a sledgehammer, three different weights of crowbars, or an aluminum bat with a friend. 

Smash Therapy is one of the many “anger rooms” popping up in North America, dedicated to the total annihilation of smashable things to relieve some stress.

“Anger rooms,” showcased in movies like Netflix Original Dash and Lily, exist on the supposed urge to destroy. Another “anger room” in Vancouver, E-EXIT, boasts that, “[it] is sure to relieve some stress and put a smile on your face.” 

As you suit up in a protective mask with a plastic face cover and thick gloves, you are advised to swing toward the wreckage that dominates the majority of the room. The walls and ceiling—spray-painted plywood and mesh netting, respectively—and the dubstep in the background all set the mood adequately;this is a place to get your anger out in a safe way, in full view of your friends or coworkers. There’s something undeniably freeing about swinging a crowbar into something—it satisfies an urge that breaking a window or keying a car might feel like. 

My friend and I swing until our thirty minutes are up. I felt largely the same, if unburdened from a few of my more violent urges. In these COVID-19 times, I understand the need to feel like in your control, and swinging a 15-pound sledgehammer into a group of bottles makes you feel like you have some degree of agency over your life. 

Bring six friends to Smash Therapy and see if it helps the malaise any. Beating a tire with an aluminum bat made me feel like I was a villain in a Marvel movie, kicking ass with my friend, and sometimes, that’s all you need.

Smash Therapy is open seven days a week. Prices start from $35 per person for a 30-minute session. Due to provincial health standards, it’s not recommended to travel outside your health area until the lockdown ends. Find out more at smashtherapy.ca. 

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