Overly aggressive drivers. Irresponsible pet owners. Rude people in general. These are just some of the thoughts that run through my mind as I begin smashing things with a baseball bat. As the Foo Fighters' Best of You blares in the background, I find myself feeling better with every whack of the bat.
Welcome to the UAE’s first Smash Room, which has just opened in Al Quoz. It was founded by Hiba Balfaqih and her friend Ibrahim Abudyak, who hope to help people in the UAE de-stress using this unique method.
The idea of a Smash Room
Balfaqih, who grew up in Montreal, says her grandmother passed away about a year ago and it left her with some unresolved feelings.
“I had a lot of anger and resentment,” she said. “I went and did the traditional methods of therapy and it just didn’t help.”
One day she decided to try something different, and as an entrepreneur with a background in psychology, Balfaqih realised she was on to something.
“I came up with the idea to go into my backyard and smash something, and I felt relief. So I thought, ‘all right, let’s start a business’,” she says.
Balfaqih hopes the room helps others find an alternative way to deal with stress. “The Smash Room is a form of stress release. It’s kind of like exercise,” she says.
“When you start smashing, you’re releasing your endorphins and so forth, so that’s the area that’s the ‘therapy’ part – the release of negative energy.”
Getting set up to smash stuff
The Smash Room is in the back of an old tyre shop in Al Quoz Industrial Area 4.
Concrete walls, old appliances and graffiti are what you notice first. There is also an old flat-screen TV and a sledgehammer lined up against the wall.
All the objects to be smashed in one of the four designated rooms come from the junk yard or donations, while some participants also bring their own items to break.
Before I can start, I’m told the safety precautions and given an adult-sized, lightweight onesie to put over my clothes, which I later learn is to protect myself from dust and small shards of glass.
I'm also given padding to wear over my chest and back for protection, as well as a helmet and gloves. While The Smash Room has its own playlist, I am given a choice of song to play while I start hitting things. I go with the Foo Fighters. Finally, I'm given a choice of weapon. They range from crowbars, to a cricket or baseball bat or a sledgehammer. The trick here is grabbing one with weight enough to do damage but which won't leave my shoulders sore tomorrow. I go for the baseball bat.
It’s smashing time
Fully kitted up and with advice ringing in my ears, I’m led into one of the four rooms and there’s already a flat-screen TV face down. I feel slightly awkward on the first swing, but once the music gets louder, I find myself getting more into it. I also start building up a sweat. Basically, it seems, I’ve inadvertently signed myself up for a high-intensity interval training class.
I’m told another room has a barrel, so I try that one. It contains glasses and plates which I’m able to line up on top of the barrel and swing at with my bat. The shattering effect is everything I thought it would be – swift but beautiful.
I have slight hesitation as I worry about my legs, which aren't nearly as covered as other parts of my body. As the glass breaks, it can be a little bit difficult to anticipate in what direction the pieces will fly.
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I’m also able to chuck things onto the concrete wall. I notice some plates that are identical to the ones I have at home, so I go for those.
Slightly embarrassingly, on my first throw at the wall the plate merely bounces back and on to the ground without breaking – which also makes me question why anyone would dump such sturdy crockery to begin with.
But the second time I have better luck as I try to toss it Frisbee-style with a side-arm flick, which gets the job done.
The final verdict
The Smash Room is what you’d expect it to be. It’s a place where you can release all that inner anger while also sneaking in a good workout.
As someone who is also trying to cut down on waste, I like the idea of how everything that gets smashed gets recycled after it's sorted by the clean up team. After all, why not get one final good use out of it?
The Smash Room opens to the public on March 18. They have five different package offers, with single sessions starting from Dh75. Children must be aged 16 or older. For more, visit www.thesmashroom.ae or 058 198 2323