Thursday, April 10, 2008

A Little History, Part 10: On the Road to Replacing the Riser

I drove across the country with my bow on the deck above the back seat of my car. As I crossed the Texas panhandle, I saw a range and all I could think of was how much I would have liked to stop. On I drove, however, across I-40 before turning north up the eastern seaboard. On a stop for lunch in Maryland, I called Lloyd to get the number of Eric Hall at Archery International Marketing (AIM). AIM was the main importer of Samick products in the U.S., and before leaving San Diego, a strange sound had started coming from my bow. Not sure what the problem was, I decided to stop at AIM, which was located in Willimantic, CT, to see if I could get the problem solved. I spoke to Eric on the phone while at that stop in Maryland. I told him I would be in the Willimantic area the next day, and was hoping that I could speak to him. He agreed, and on I went up the coast.

The next day, after getting lost between Meriden (where my friend and I had stopped for the night) and Willimantic, I finally found my way to AIM. Eric was not there, however, apparently having forgotten a prior commitment when I spoke to him the day before. Not willing to leave my bow at that point, I figured I would still take the opportunity to buy a quiver, which I needed. I was taken back into the stacks, picked out a quiver, and after I inquired as to the cost, was told that I could take it because Eric had missed our meeting. I thanked them and set back out on the road to Rhode Island.

A few weeks later, I drove back down to Willimantic from Boston in order to find out what the problem was with my bow. Leaving the riser and limbs behind, I returned Boston to await the news from AIM. When it finally came, the determination was that there was a problem in the riser. AIM was sending me back my limbs, with a new Samick Mizar riser, and a new arrow rest (as my old one was stuck on the problem riser). When the package arrived, I had a full set of equipment, all in good working order. I could finally start the next stage of my archery progression.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

A Little History, Part 9: Taking the Plunge

After the L.A. Indoor, the next big archery-related event for me was a trip with some friends to Las Vegas. After parlaying a $10 bet in roulette into a nice little bankroll, I had about $300 in profits after covering my costs for the trip. What does this have to do with archery, you ask? Well, nothing. Nothing, that is, until I found a decent entry level archery set for $300. Sounded like a good graduation gift to get for myself, especially having decided that I was going to keep on pursuing this archery thing for a long time to come.

So I put in my order, and close to the end of spring quarter, a package showed up at my apartment containing a Samick Mizar riser, Samick Agulla limbs, and a bowstring. I then bought a set of arrows, a bowstand, carrying case, finger tab, arm guard, arrow rest, plunger, sight, and stabilizer. Around this time, Lloyd had secured for Elisa a used riser through one of his private students. So at the end of spring quarter, and on throughout the summer, the two of us were shooting our own bows on the range every Wednesday. We even considered entering the Cal State Games, but the extra distance (we were used to 20-40 yards, not 70-90 meters) led us to not enter the competition.

And then my time in San Diego came to a close, and I packed my bow, along with the rest of my life, into my car and hit the road.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

A Little History, Part 8: Tournament #1: The L.A. Indoor

As the calendar turned from 2005 to 2006, Lloyd told us about an upcoming tournament that we should consider entering. The 2006 Los Angeles City Indoor Archery Championship would be held on Saturday, March 4, 2006, at UCLA's Pauley Pavilion, put on by one of Lloyd's other student groups, the UCLA Archery Club. Elisa and I worked constantly, including learning to really use sights and running our first serious scoring rounds, in preparation for the tournament. Lloyd refletched a set of arrows for each of us, and we were ready to head up to Los Angeles with a pair of German study abroad students who had joined the class that quarter.

The day before the tournament, I was biking from my apartment to campus when I got a call from Lloyd that our arrows were ready, and asking me to come pick them up. Elisa and I had already packed our bows and other equipment for the trip up the coast, but the arrows had taken a few extra days. So I met Lloyd at the range, put a quiver with two sets of arrows into my backpack, and rode the rest of the way into campus. Then I spent the next few hours walking around campus with a bunch of arrows sticking out of my backpack. Needless to say, I got a lot of strange looks, not to mention a bunch of questions from my friends. Eventually, I got Elisa on the phone (she had been in class), and she took the arrows and put them in her car until Saturday.

Saturday morning I got up bright and early. The Germans met me at my apartment, and we drove up to Elisa's house in north county, San Diego. The four of us then hit the road for UCLA. Arriving at Pauley Pavilion, we checked in, put our bows together, and marveled at our first archery competition. Across the long axis of the basketball court, a line of target butts had been set up with two 40 cm target faces each. Behind the line was a curtain, meant to protect the seats behind from wayward arrows. Elisa and I had been placed, with a few UCLA club archers, on the far side of the line.

Poor Elisa. In the early going, she could not seem to catch a break. On the first practice arrow of the day, a loud bang echoed throughout the gym. The curtain had not quite been long enough to reach all of the targets, and Elisa had missed the target butt and slammed her arrow into the wall. From that point on, the arrow, which also had the knock blown off and the point sheared, was known as the "dogleg arrow" for the distinct bend that it displayed about two thirds of the way up the shaft. It was later used as a bowstand, but its shooting days were over. Once the scoring ends started, things did not get any better, as Elisa's arrow rest fell off her bow on the first competition shot. Declaring an equipment failure, Lloyd secured her a working rest, she was able to make up the shot, and things started to go relatively smoothly after that.

Archery idioms learned at the tournament:

  • Porno shot: Putting all three arrows in the center of the target (XXX).
  • German virgin: Putting all three arrows in the nine ring ("Nein, nein, nein").

    As for me, my goal had been to put all 60 arrows in the 10 scoring rings of the target. I came close to missing an arrow in the late going, but in the end I accomplished my goal. I finished 12 out of 16 in the NAA/FITA Recurve College Men's division, good enough to be the lead scorer on the newly founded (and extremely unofficial) UCSD Archery Team.

    When everything was said and done, we got back in the car and drove back down to San Diego. With as early as I had gotten up that morning, coupled with how late I ended up staying up with some friends, my first archery tournament ended up being part of about a 22 hour day. Not a bad way to spend all that time, if I do say so myself.

    Score: 194 + 175 = 369.
  • Monday, April 7, 2008

    A Little History, Part 7: Disaster Avoidance

    Not everything in the archery class was all fun and games, however. After a while, there were effectively two archery classes. On one side of the range was the new group of curious newcomers who populated the archery class every quarter. On the other side, separated by a line of hay bales, was the group of returning archers, namely me and Elisa. The newcomers' line was being run by the assistant coach, while the advanced group was on our own time. Because of the separation by the hay bales, the lines were on slightly different time schedules, so we were sometimes shooting while they were retrieving, and vice-versa.

    At one point, I was at full draw, ready to shoot, when I noticed something was not quite right. Something was at my target that was not supposed to be there. What had happened was while we were shooting on our side of the range, the beginners were retrieving their arrows. One little girl, about 10 or 12 years old, had walked behind the dividing line of hay bales and right up to the one I was shooting at, just as I was drawing back my arrow. Fortunately for everyone, she had gotten there just in time for me to let down. Had she gotten there about a second later, I would have already fired, and she would have had the daylights scared out of here by an arrow flying near her head. Had she gotten there about half a second later, however, she might have effected my aim, and I do not like to think what might have happened then. Because she got there when she did, I was able to let the pressure off my bow and not fire the arrow.

    In the aftermath of the near miss, the little girl got a hard talking to and a stern warning. The assistant coach was told she needs to pay a lot closer attention to make sure that kind of thing did not happen. As for me, I know that if the near miss had turned into a disaster, my little archery experiment, as well as my life as I knew it, would have come to an abrupt end. As it turns out, I just have a horror story to tell, and nothing worse than that.

    Sunday, April 6, 2008

    A Little History, Part 6: The Great Pumpkin Shoot

    Occasionally, we would have the opportunity to have special archery competitions. Sometimes we would shoot at balloons, sometimes playing cards, and sometimes Elisa or I would put up a dollar bill and shoot at it. On October 26, 2005, the last archery class before Halloween, we had a special treat. We had the chance to shoot at pumpkins. A few archers per pumpkin, we had the chance to puncture the orange fruit with our arrows. And who was the first in our group? That's right. I had the first successful shot.

    After a while, we decided to see how much damage we could do to the pumpkin, and to that end we decided to leave our successful hits in the pumpkin, only collecting our missed arrows and trying again. Needless to say, we did quite a bit of damage. And had a damn good time doing it.

    Saturday, April 5, 2008

    A Little History, Part 5: Moving the Range

    After a summer in Washington and away from archery, I came back to San Diego in the fall of 2005 for my senior year at UCSD. While I was away, they had moved us off of our out-of-the-way, marked, protected range, and onto a new space that was unmarked and open to a cross breeze. I found out later that they had paved the old range and turned it into a parking lot, but for the moment all I knew was that we had been moved to a new setting. It was unfortunate, but we still had a range. Elisa and I were still around, and maybe one other person from the spring quarter, but everyone else had given it up. Archery attrition at UCSD had begun, and the quarter began the way spring had ended: Wednesday afternoons shooting at hay bales and targets.

    One quick story from the quarter (that doesn't rate its own post). I found one of my favorite trinkets in a hay bale on the range. After we had finished an end of arrows, we walked up to the hay bales to collect them. One of my arrows didn't want to come out, however. After finally pulling it out, I noticed that the arrow was jammed up inside an old arrowhead that had broken off in the hay bale. I pulled the head off of the shaft, and put it in my pocket, thinking that it would be a cool little souvenir to have. I promptly forgot about it until that night. Playing poker with some friends, I was about even when I noticed something odd was in my pocket. Remembering the arrowhead, I pulled it out and started using it as a card protector, making sure that my cards were not accidentally mucked if I wasn't paying attention. The very next hand, I nearly busted a pretty good poker player when I ended up with four 10s. I still like to have the arrowhead with me when I am playing poker, although now I just leave it in my pocket unless and until I find an opportune moment to pull it out and tell the story.

    Friday, April 4, 2008

    A Little History, Part 4: The Great Shift

    I have been extremely right handed my entire life. Writing that I do with my left hand is just about impossible to read. Seeing me try to throw with my left hand is an exercise in biting one's tongue to keep from breaking down into hysterical laughter. The only left thing about me when I walked onto the range that first day was my politics.

    The assistant coach came up and checked us for eye dominance. When she got to me, she decided that I was ambidextrous eye-wise, and said that I could shoot from either side. Being so completely right handed, I naturally decided to shoot right handed, meaning that I hold the bow in my left hand, stand with my left foot towards the target, my quiver on my right hip away from the target, and I draw the bow with my right hand. For a few weeks I started shooting this way, and was doing decently in the class. I was not the best archer in our group, but I was hovering in the top 5 or 10 for sure.

    After a few weeks, the main coach, former US Olympic team coach Lloyd Brown, came to the range. After a few minutes of watching me shoot, Lloyd basically asked me "What the hell are you doing shooting right handed?" Lloyd had noticed that I was aiming all wrong, and my arrows were not flying as they normally would. He readministered the eye dominance test to me, and told me that I was left eye dominant. Handing me a left handed bow and finger tab, he had me switch my quiver to me left hip, and got me set up standing left foot forward, holding the bow in my right hand, and drawing with my left. I immediately dropped to the bottom of the class, as everyone else had a few weeks of getting used to the form, while I was starting at about square 1.1 (as opposed to starting completely over at square 1).

    It is a good thing Lloyd switched me, though. Of the about 25 people in that class, I believe that only 2 of us are still shooting today, or were even shooting when the next class started in the fall of 2005. Only Elisa and I were left standing, and there is no way that I would still be shooting if I had been left right handed, as the frustration would have mounted and I would not have been able to develop as an archer.

    Thursday, April 3, 2008

    A Little History, Part 3: The Return of the Archer

    At the end of winter quarter in 2005 at UC-San Diego, my roommate brought the Spring 2005 Rec catalog. After flipping through the list, George exclaimed "Cool! Archery!" or some words to that effect. As I thought about it, the idea really started to grow on me, and I decided to sign up. George never actually signed up for the class, but on a Wednesday early in that spring quarter, I drove out behind the hospital on the back end of east campus, parked my car, and walked up the hill to the range. There were about 20 or 25 people standing around, waiting for an instructor to come up. This was where I met my friend Elisa (picture), and, for the first time, started to appreciate what archery was really all about.

    The range was marked at 10 yard intervals from a line of hay bales up to 50 or 70 yards (as I never got beyond 20 or 30 at that range, I don't exactly recall how far back it actually went). There was a hill on the left side of the range (when facing the hay bales) that blocked the wind, and another one topped with a fence behind the hay bales protecting anyone on the other side from a wayward arrow. If anything disastrous should happen, the hospital was just across the road on the other side of that hill. To the right was a dirt road where we parked our cars, and then across the canyon to graduate student housing. Behind us was I-5 and west campus. There was a trailer that held all the equipment (bows, arrows, quivers, arm guards, finger tabs, targets, etc.), and a few tables where jackets were dumped and the equipment laid out.

    That first day, we were shooting from I believe 10 yards, with no targets, and just doing our best to put arrows into the hay bales. As ultra beginners, not clear on the proper form, we couldn't always do it, but it certainly was fun.

    Wednesday, April 2, 2008

    A Little History, Part 2: Interim Interest

    After camp, archery sat at the back of my mind for the better part of a decade. Beyond Robin Hood movies (and other movies that included a character using a bow), my next real exposure to archery came in the summer of 2004. The Olympic Games in Athens were underway, and I was in a motel room in Flagstaff, Arizona, my base of operations for a weeklong road trip across the Colorado Plateau. Flipping channels after a long day of driving, I came across the archery competition. I watched for a while, not really understanding many of the nuances or key points that I have since learned, but I very much enjoyed watching it as the sport returned to my consciousness.

    Tuesday, April 1, 2008

    A Little History, Part 1: First Exposure

    My first exposure to the sport of archery (outside of movies and television) was at camp when I was in middle school. Up on the hill above the lake and the baseball diamond, there was a rough little range with hay bales holding targets. At the bottom of the range there was a small structure that housed the equipment and provided a little shade. The equipment was kept in a cabinet, that also had the distinction of being one of the places that always had a wasps' nest.

    At camp, the rules of archery were two:

  • Don't shoot anyone.
  • Don't piss off the wasps.