Archery’s new cool
Archers and archery have been a hot commodity in Hollywood lately. Pixar’s Brave, the super hero film The Avengers, and teen blockbuster The Hunger Games have all featured characters making their way based on prowess with a bow and arrow. Taking aim at the trend, Incline decided to head out and see if archery’s new cool has spread to Vancouver Island.
Parksville-Qualicum’s Fish and Game Association operates a busy archery club called the Arrowsmith Archers. Over 35-years old, and affiliated with the British Columbia Archery Association, the club is also involved in the Junior Olympic program. Its main organizer, Rhonda, says the Archers have seen a bump in numbers lately, which she attributes to “a combination of those films, I believe, and the club coming back to life with volunteers.” Approximately 30-40 youth members are signed up this year, closely split split between boys and girls, along with 15-20 adult members.
Al Wills is President of Archery Canada and the Victoria Bowmen Association in Victoria, BC. Have the recent Hollywood releases increased the number of people joining and participating in his organization? “That would be the understatement of the decade!” he declares happily in an e-mail. Wills says that last year was a “perfect storm,” as the Hollywood releases were coupled with archery being the first contested sport in the London Olympics.
The club’s membership director, Larry Gagnon, says the increased interest may also have to do with moving to the Saanich Commonwealth Centre Gym, a more visible location in the community, as well as hosting the Canadian Archery Championships in 2012.
Off-island, Susan Lemke of Starr Archery, a club in in Abbotsford, BC, thinks the sport’s current popularity reaches all the way back to the movie version of The Lord of the Rings in 2001. But she stresses the importance of new shooters getting the right experience in order to maintain membership numbers. “Archery is a sport of skills and mental control,” she says, “and this needs to be nurtured.”
Back at the Arrowsmith Archers Club, Rhonda’s 12 year old daughter, Tayia, steps up to shoot at the target. She heard about archery from an uncle, and joined the Archers five years ago. Her mother became involved shortly after.
“Try it,” says Tayia. “It’s a lot of fun.”
Joining is easy. Prospective members can drop in to the Arrowsmith Archers Club and shoot on the first night for free, then pay $10 for each subsequent night.
Three different types of bows are used. Tayia shoots with a recurve bow, which stores more energy and gives greater speed to the arrow. There is also the longbow, which is tall and light, quick to prepare, and shoots more quietly, as well as the compound or mechanical bow, which uses a levering system and allows for greater accuracy and less strenuous aiming.
Tayia especially enjoys the individual aspect of the sport and believes that the release of The Hunger Games is behind the increase in the numbers of young people looking to join the sport.
Mike Davidson of the Richmond Rod and Gun Club credits social media as well with the sport’s renewal. “I’ve seen interest in archery soar before with The Lord of the Rings movies, but that waned fairly quickly. Social media may be a good part of the reason that this increase in interest has and continues to be sustained”
In Victoria, Wills remains optimistically cautious, “I am very excited that my sport is suddenly cool, but no matter what the age of the new archer, once they realize how much work, dedication, and commitment is required, the interest drops off. A small percentage of those who initially try archery actually become archers.”
An annual membership with the Parksville-Qualicum Fish and Game Association ranges from $35 for juniors to $65 for a family membership. Junior Olympic Program (JOP) membership for a youth is another $57.50. However, fees are likely to rise next year.
Says Rhonda: “There are various competitions to take part in like the JOP Indoor Championships, JOP Outdoor Championships, there are national competitions as well. 3D Target Tournaments are hosted in various communities throughout the year and the BC Winter Games every year as well.”
Arrowsmith Archers meet weekly on Monday nights between 7 p.m. and 9 p.m. at the Nanoose Pentacostal Camp. Email Rhonda at [email protected] for more details.