Thursday, September 29, 2011

1 of 30: Archery - Finding My Inner Elf

It was 7:30 in the morning and I was one of the first ones to arrive at the Pasadena Arching Range. A gawky teenager who looked like he probably just came from (and won) a scholastic decathlon, or a Final Fantasy video game convention came up to me and asked what made me decide to learn archery.
What made me decide to learn archery? Let’s face it. It’s because it’s freakin’ cool. Anyone who’s ever seen Lord of the Rings or Avatar would agree with me. It’s unique, it makes you look pretty hot, and Natalie Portman knows how to do it!
But of course I didn’t say that. I actually didn’t know what to say to make me sound less geeky than the kid in front of me, so I deflected the question and asked him why he was there.
He said he wanted to get better at Wii Sports Resort’s Archery game.


Honestly though, the goal was just to have fun. :)

The instructors came and divided us up into different groups, so there were about 8 students per instructor. There were a few things we needed to do before we could start training. First, they needed to check our “dominant eye.” A lot of the placement of the gear and equipment depends on your eye dominance... almost similar to left or right handedness. But being right handed doesn't necessarily make you Right Eye Dominant. It's weird.

How to Check your Dominant Eye

1. Extend both your hands forward, and place your hands together making a small triangle between your thumbs.
2. Look through the triangular hole you made with your hands with both eyes open, and focus on an object a few feet away from you (i.e. a light bulb or your friend’s nose)
3. With both eyes open, make sure that object is in the center of the hole.
4. Close your left eye. Is the object still in the center? If it is, then you are right eye dominant.
5. If not, then close your right eye. Is the object in the center this time? If it is, then you are left eye dominant.
6. You’ve tried 4 and 5 and neither worked? Maybe you need to go to your optician.

Sweet. My right eye is dominant! Once that was all settled, they fit us into our gear – which is one of my favorite aspects to this sport.

Archery Gear/Equipment
1. A bow (obviously)
2. Arrows (so you have something to shoot the target… nice feathers is a plus)
3. A belt quiver (so you have a place to pull the arrows from)
4. A finger tab (so it doesn’t hurt when you pull on the string)
5. An armguard (so that you look really cool)

We finally set off with our instructor and found a target placed on a bale of hay waiting for us. After a few safety instructions, our trainer, Anne, began teaching us the basic form you have to take for a good shot. Feet shoulder width apart, set the arrow firmly on the bow, take a deep breath and pull the string until it is neatly aligned with your face, focus on the target… and let go. Anne said that to pull on the string, you don’t pull with your arm, you pull with your back. It gives you the best form with a risen chest and an arched back. It apparently also gives you good leverage when you shoot.
She asked for four volunteers to come up and shoot, and of course my hand shot up in the air. She lined us up in a horizontal line, all about 10 feet away from the target. She said to take our time, and just shoot at will. So, I did exactly that. Took my sweet time, feet width apart, focused on the target… pulled with my back, not my arms, and breathed.
But then out of nowhere, this kid who was standing beside me took aim and shot a BULLSEYE! For the first time! No care for form or anything!

I stared at him incredulously. I couldn’t believe it. The 12 year old kid next to me with long blonde hair and braces just hit a bulls eye.
All of a sudden, the goal wasn’t to just have fun anymore. It was to beat the kid.

To those of you who don’t already know, I am very… VERY competitive.

I focused on the target, got into form, and shot.
I did NOT hit the bulls eye. But I came pretty close.

Anne allowed us to finish shooting all four of our arrows, so I did, determined to beat little Legolas. Just as I was about to shoot my fourth one, Anne yelled – “Hold it, Eartha! Hold it!”

I froze.

Anne went over to me and said, “Everyone, do you see how her back is nice and straight? You can totally see that she is pulling the string with her back! And do you see how the string is nicely aligned with her face? Look at those lines, everyone!”
She was using me as an example for good stance. I was petrified.

I was under immense pressure at that moment. I felt like I would disappoint Anne and everyone if I didn’t hit a bulls eye with my perfect arching form!
Everyone was staring at me. So I took a deep breath, aimed, and shot.

Shit. No bulls eye. Still pretty close though.

Then Legolas yelled, “Nice! So close!” then he aimed, and shot another bulls eye. Horrible form. Perfect aim. I was his exact opposite.
I wanted to scream at him and say, “Shut up, you ELF!!!” But he was so cute, and I love jocks, so I ran up and high fived him. Hehe.

I came to terms with the fact that I was never going to beat him, and told myself he had the advantage of having Elvish genes. We continued to shoot for the next half hour or so, and we all got better and better. I managed to hit a few bulls eye’s which was pretty awesome! And at the end of the lesson, they had a game for all newcomers. We were to shoot a balloon from 20 feet away. They had about 10 bales of hay right next to each other with different colored balloons in the middle of the target. Whoever gets to hit the balloons win a prize!
And out of about 40 newcomers, of course, Legolas hits one of them. He ran up to me and we high fived with a “Yyyyeeah!”
I have to admit, I was a little jealous.
I walked him up to the area where he could clam his prize. It was a dollar with a “Pasadena Roving Archer’s” stamp on it.
I wasn’t that jealous anymore.

But all in all, I had TONS of fun! Archery is very relaxing. Almost meditational, actually. It’s a calming sport, and it’s definitely something I would recommend for everyone to try!
I came into this wanting to channel my inner elf, but came out of it making friends with one! I’m going to miss Legolas… :(

To those of you in LA, Pasadena Roving Archers hold free beginners classes every Saturday morning at 9am (but you have to be there before 8), and it’s just 5 dollars per class thereafter.
See you guys there! :)