The popularity of on-screen archers like Hawkeye, Merida and Green Arrow has undeniably caused a commotion in the rapidly expanding archery community. So where does one go to pick up the bow and arrow?
By Sarah Wang
TWANG! The string reverberates through the air as it buzzes to a gentle stop beside your cheek. THWISH! The arrow is released from the bow, slicing swiftly through the air. THUNK! The arrow lands in the yellow with a satisfying thud — bullseye.
This cycle may seem unremarkable to most, but to those who call the Arroyo Seco’s archery range a second home, it is a familiar routine that they have near-perfected over years of practice. Pasadena Roving Archers (PRA), the park’s main occupant, was established in November of 1935 — making it the oldest field archery range in the country. The archery club, one of the largest entirely volunteer-run public archery education programs in the country, serves over 10,000 visitors per year and is home to USC’s Trojan Archery team.
What is it about the sport of archery that drives thousands to shoot at the range? Week after week, PRA’s free first-time classes are almost always booked to maximum capacity and its returning and advanced classes never fail to draw the crowds back.
A good portion of those crowds might stem from archery’s growing visibility in Hollywood. In the past few decades, archery has enjoyed an enormous surge in on-screen popularity, almost a revival even, whether it be in classics like the Lord of the Rings series or in the 2012 superhero favorite, The Avengers. In fact, PRA has had a hand in the making of some of those hit blockbusters, such as training Avatar’s Sam Worthington and Zoe Saldana as well as working with Arrow’s archery technician. While the media may be what draws some fans in, it is the sport itself that makes them stay.
Perhaps a reason why archery has gained so many loyal follows is that archery is a sport that comes with both physical and mental health benefits. Those unfamiliar with the sport often underestimate how physically demanding archery can be, especially in field archery. Usually, the draw weight on bows can range anywhere from 10 to 60 pounds, which requires a great amount of upper body and back strength. Archers often practice with stretch bands and weights to build strength and fine-tune the precise motor skills and muscle control that archery demands. All of this practice, in addition to carrying heavy equipment up and down the range, means that archers can expect to gain strength and stamina.
The cognitive benefits of archery are also an advantage to archers in their daily lives as well. Over time, archers naturally build focus, patience, and confidence from archery that can be applied to other tasks. Often, archers are also found to enjoy the sport as a relaxing way to detox and de-stress, giving them the energy they need to power through their workdays. Plus, the archery community is known to be friendly and welcoming so meeting friends, new and old, is motivation enough to get out and shoot.
Of course, the thrill of competition is also a major factor. Most archery communities participate in several different kinds of archery such as field archery, target archery and 3-D archery. Target archery, as seen in the Olympics, is the type of archery in which archers shoot at fixed targets from marked distances, ranging from 18 to 70 meters. Field archery, on the other hand, consists of several different course layouts at varying differences in rough terrain. 3-D archery, as its name suggests, is a type of field archery in which archers aim at 3-D foam targets, usually in the shape of animals. Archers can easily find local tournaments in any of these categories, especially here in Southern California.
Archery is a sport that is open to people of all ages, genders and athletic abilities. So whether you’re an Olympic Recurve fan like Katniss or a traditionalist like Legolas, or perhaps even an admirer of Oliver Queen’s compound-looking Oneida Kestrel, there’s a place in the Arroyo Seco for you.