Recreation

Recreation: Archery is catching fire

December 11, 2013 

YMCA Camp Clearwater counselor Elana Horwitz watches as Ashe Rivera takes aim.

YMCA

At Christmas, if the kids like it, parents better put a bow on it. This year, however, almost as many packages will have bows in them as on them…and a few arrows might not be too off-target either.

Thanks to vastly popular movies and television characters, the 2012 Olympics, and appeal among all ages, growing numbers are quivering with excitement for archery, arguably American’s hottest trending recreational activity.

In the immensely popular “Hunger Games” film series, the character Katniss Everdeen has “unwittingly created a dramatic surge in American archery participation, especially among young women,” Martin Rogers said in a recent Yahoo Sports article.

“We had the ‘Hunger Games,’ we had the Pixar film ‘Brave,’ and we’ve had television shows,” said John Kristoff, owner and Level Four USA Archery coach at Lifetime Archery () in Raleigh, NC. “Then there were the 2012 Olympic Games in London, where archery was the most-watched sport on streaming internet channels.”

Now lines at the movie theaters of late are translating into lines of would-be competitors for lanes at ranges and at stores that stock archery equipment.

“We’ve just opened our new indoor (14-lane) archery range over the last two weeks,” Kristoff said. “I had been leasing space at other businesses.”

“I teach groups of home-schooled kids, and we have archery sessions,” Chapel Hill / Carrboro YMCA sports director Mike Meyen said, “and there are some really clamoring for (more archery).”

“I think what the shows have done is rekindled general interests,” Kristoff said. “People of all different ages are seeing it. Adults are saying, ‘I remember doing that as a kid,’ and we help anyone of any age get started (or re-started).”

North Carolina Field Archery Association president John Winker said interest crosses demographic and geographic lines.

“The interest you would typically see in the past is in rural areas where people are more interested in hunting, and in the cities you’d see people more interested in target archery,” said “Now, we’re seeing those lines disappear.”

“Typically, we work with kids eight years old through adults,” Kristoff said. “We get requests for private lessons for individuals or families, for small groups, for birthday parties, for corporate team-building. … We have equipment, so they don’t have to have a bow to come in.”

“I also train a lot of the staff of summer camps throughout North Carolina and Virginia,” Kristoff added. “That’s part of our business: coach certification and instruction.”

“Archery is our fastest-growing area,” said Eric Godwin of NC Hunter Supply ( nchunterssupply.com) in Raleigh. “We give lessons here, and we do have a lot of junior archers. If you can do it with a bow, then we can hook you up with it.”

NC Hunter Supply owner Justin Rodgers said he’s geared an entirely new online directory to meet demand for local interest in recreation archery.

“So many of these people aren’t hunters, but they’re interested in the archery sport,” he said. “They can sign up for lessons right on the website.”

According to Rogers, one California archery supply store reports being swamped and running out of equipment.

Cedar Ridge High School teacher and nationally competitive archer Allison Eaton found equipping a local club was harder than expected.

“Last year, I applied for a grant from USA Archery to purchase equipment and it was months before I could get it: it was back-ordered,” she said. “The ‘Hunger Games,’ ‘Brave,’ and the ‘Avengers’ had come out, everyone was buying archery equipment; clubs were popping up all over the country.”

Eaton, whose Wolf Ridge Archery ( wolfridgearchery.weebly.com/) meets at a Camp Chestnut Ridge range in Efland, finally got her club started last winter through private donations and a $1,500 grant.

“Now we’re up to over 40 archers, mostly from Cedar Ridge,” Eaton said, “plus we have some kids from middle schools, from private schools and from Chapel Hill.”

Rogers reported that, nationwide, USA Archery membership had doubled since the Hunger Games first hit move screens.

Archery through the ages

Archery was the weapon of choice for mounted and foot soldiers for millenniauntil the advent of gunpowder. Today, archery reflects a novel choice for hunters and equipment for recreational athletes who compete in target archery (aiming from pre-set positions at fixed targets) or field archery (shooting at targets of varying distances in natural settings).

One of the qualities of this sport for the ages, however, is that it can be enjoyed by all ages. As such, Winker said that popularity is likely to remain high.

“Every time a new movie, book, or television show comes out, we see a new wave of interest,” Winker said. “After the wave disappears, truly interested folks (stick with it). We’re seeing a huge wave right now. But archery’s consistently growing.”

So, Katniss can take a bow as moviegoers take both a bow and arrow. The popularity of a sport that’s quickly “Catching Fire” is likely to be burning strong for some time.

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