June 27, 2012

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It was just a matter of time before I got myself to an archery range. After learning about the Pasadena Roving Archers club (thanks GeekDad and Jim MacQuarrie!) and their free Saturday morning classes and finding a willing friend, I had to check it out. I was curious about the sport, and honestly? I'm cosplaying as Merida later this year and I wanted to make sure I at least knew how to hold a bow properly. I didn't know what to expect, as mentioned, I was just curious - but I left the class on such a high. 

The club's website cautions that The Hunger Games effect meant the line for the 8:30am class was long even at 7:30. We tried to get there at 7 (I actually didn't mind getting up at 6am on a Saturday for a reason like this), but thanks to traffic ended up in line around 7:20. There were already 30 or so people in front of us. I completely lost track of time after this. We signed in and before long we were taken off in groups to go through an assembly line of sorts to get us info and equipment for the day. Even with tons of people - including the inevitable few or many who didn't listen - the club was very organized.

Getting fitted with finger and arm guards
First, we signed the obligatory waiver. Then a coach determined which eye was dominant and each person was given a white or red poker chip. You'd think your dominant eye would match your dominant hand, but that's not necessarily the case. Mine happened to, so I was given a red chip... which I managed to break in less than a minute. Yeah, that wasn't embarrassing. I didn't squeeze it or anything though! After being ribbed about whether I should be given any more equipment, I got a replacement chip. 

Then we lined up with our chips and were fitted with finger and arm guards. The hand and arm they went on depended on the color chip you had. Next, we got a quiver and arrows and finally a recurve bow. The arrows had different colored "feathers" so you could memorize and identify your arrows when you had to pull them from a target later. The bow was numbered so you could remember which one was yours for the morning. And I think it's important to note that all the equipment was in fantastic shape. Impressive considering how many newbies are handling that stuff each weekend.

Once we were fully armed, my friend and I happened to hear an instructor taking a group of ten to one of the many targets on the range and we jumped in. Charlie broke down the basics on safety, form, technique, and aiming and was very nice and helpful. When people didn't listen, he helped with humor rather than yelling or seeming annoyed. You'd think all of that would be obvious, but I've had instructors for other activities who don't give beginners any slack and make the learning experience unpleasant.
Not the case here. Charlie was patient, and I got the same vibe from other instructors around the range. Once we went through the basics, our group lined up in front of our target and each of us shot our four arrows. When everyone was done and we got the signal, we'd pull them out of the target. Rinse and repeat for I think about an hour? I was having too much fun to notice. I was surprised at the strength it takes to pull back the string. I only had a 15lb bow, and it took a little effort. I was also surprised at how far you pull the string back. Once you get all your muscles where they should be though, it just clicks.


At the end of the class, we walked back over to the main target area with all the other groups. We all squished onto the line and fired. Then they hung up balloons on the target and split us into two groups so we'd have room to comfortable stand on the line. The first person to hit a balloon on one of the targets received a prize. I fitted my arrow as quickly as I could, tried to aim, and managed to hit a balloon. It was pure luck. I won this:
As I mentioned, the first class is free. You can go back again for a suggested $5 donation and eventually, if you love it and an instructor approves, you can sign up for a seven week course. I'm hooked and had such a great time, I'll definitely go back to play again on a Saturday morning soon.

And let me tell you: if I can do it, you can do it. I'm not very sporty, and I'm incredibly clumsy. I still managed to not suck (that is until after I left the range and got in my friend's car. I managed to hit my forehead with the corner of the SUV's door. Yeah, it's an attractive bruise). Just listen and follow your instructor's guidance, and you can shoot arrows safely, too. If you're at all curious about archery, check it out. You may have a club nearby or a friend who's into the sport but just hasn't talked much about it. Ask around. I bet you'll have a blast.

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