I was once told by a close friend “Rocky, you either don’t do it, or you’re a complete ass about it, you never half ass anything.” I took that as a compliment in that I never just “kind of do something”, I’m an ALL-OR NOTHING type of guy, Archery is no exception to the rule.
As a kid, I never really did more with it than any other kid, made a bow or 2 using a stick and rope then shot some sticks at trees, but it was my kids that really opened my eyes to it. People often say to me that I’ve done so much in life, to which my response is always “not done yet”. I want my kids to know more than I know, to experience more than I’ve experienced, and to live more than I’ve lived. Even though it’s the longest thing you’ll ever do, life is short, go out and live it.
In my quest to get my boys involved in everything they can, I purchased a couple of cheapo bows at a local Big 5 Sporting Goods store just before going on one of our campouts. While we were in the woods we went to a remote part of the trails and began shooting at a target I brought. That little event of shooting at this box triggered something in us all, only we didn’t realize it until almost a year later.
Since the day we went out hunting boxes on a dusty trail in northern California the bows and thoughts of archery laid dormant in the backs of our minds until talking with a friend while at after school pickup. As we talked more and more about archery (something that he had done 15 years prior, but never really thought about it since) that dormant hobby began to wake up. One thing led to another, and a few days later, I had purchased new bows for me and my boys.
I knew that I would be into it because as it was so politely pointed out to me, I don’t half ass anything. I researched the ever-loving crap out of bows, arrows, and archery before I went to the only local archery shop. By “local” in the Bay Area, that means 30 miles away. I had them set up several bows to my draw length and weight and instructed them to not tell me about the price because as the research told me, there is no perfect bow, only perfect for you.
I shot 6 different bows and discovered one that felt the best for me. It was clear to me which bows were the higher dollar ones by the way the shop assistant would mention “…are you sure you didn’t like this one? I think you should try it again…”. Luckily, to my surprise, the bow that fit me best was only $499.00 (I say “only” because, in the world of high dollar bows, $499 is the beginning). Completely prepared to purchase the bow I felt the pressure of the commissioned salesman forcing down on me. As he tried his hardest to nickel and dime me to the point of well over $2,000, I knew it was time to step back. Had he just said “while you’re here, you might want to look at this” or “have you thought about these?” I would have been on board, but the salesman saw an opportunity to try to milk a person for every cent, and pounced on it, the only problem is when I feel any pressure, I step back completely.
Since the high-pressure salesman did his thing, I got a chance to take a step back and think. I did some research and discovered that I could purchase the same exact bow for 20% less just about anywhere else. Remember this is the only shop within 60 miles of my house, and even it is about 30 miles away. They’ve got the market pretty much cornered so they take full advantage of it. I never like to talk badly about a store, unless they’re complete jerks, so I won’t mention their name, but I will say that they ONLY do ARCHERY.
Knowing how the bow felt for me when shooting it, and knowing about the bow itself thanks to research, I ordered the bow on Amazon. I saved $100 and didn’t have to deal with the salesman attempting a whopping $600+ worth of add-ons that not surprisingly, turns out I still to this day haven’t needed. My boys weren’t so easy, they don’t jump all in like I do, and because of that, I was concerned about purchasing a ton of equipment only to have them shelve it.
For my boys, I started them off with some “affordable” bows that came with surprisingly great reviews. They couldn’t try the bows so I was a little concerned about that, but at $220 each, I figured I could risk it, and resell it if necessary. Now that we had the gear, it was time to start shooting, but where?
After some research, I accidentally found an amazing archery range just on the other side of Oakland, Ca. about 11 miles, but a 30-minute drive thanks to our lovely bay area traffic. This entire time of my shopping, researching, purchasing, and range research, I’ve kept my friend in the loop getting him excited about archery as well. To my surprise, as we walked up to try out the range for the first time I see him standing there with his family. He had randomly stopped by to check it out, and out of sheer coincidence, we decided to go up and shoot for the first time.
Luckily it was an amazing experience for me and my boys. I was really worried that they wouldn’t take to it since it was something I enjoyed, and I really wanted to get into an outdoor sport that we all liked since I am always trying to find new ways to bond with them. As a former Martial Arts instructor one of the biggest things that annoyed me was attempting to UNTRAIN bad information that was taught to my students. That being said I wanted to make sure I was teaching my boys the right way, the first time. I discovered that I could take an Olympic Archery Training Course and become a Level 1 certified instructor. I found a person offering the course only a few miles away so I went for it. Now that I was trained, and teaching my boys the Olympic Archery way, we were rapidly on our way to hitting the target with great success.
After a few weeks, I realized that it was time to move our gear around, and upgrade to the level we were at. I searched around several forums to find out what people were saying about certain gear, forum people tend to be more negative than positive which is exactly what I wanted; I’d rather have someone nit-pick than being generous with a review and have it turn out to be garbage. Thanks to hundreds of negative reviews, and my personal research, We were on our way to tournament level equipment and were at the range several times a week.
At the range we would provide a small donation to the Archery Club every time to help support the upkeep of the range. We were going so often that I met several of the members and decided that I wanted to be part of the club and help out so we joined the Redwood Bowmen Club.
After several more months of small incremental upgrades in both gear, and shooting form I wanted to take it up another notch. I did some more research and found myself in the USA Archery Level 2 Instructor course. Armed with more knowledge and better gear things really started to show improvement. My boys and I both have come a long way since our box shooting experience in the woods and continue to get better every time we shoot. Obviously, I have left out quite a bit of information, but that’s reserved for people who know me personally.
If I could, I would just do archery full time, it truly is my “Zen” place. I’m not talking strictly about the shooting, I’m also talking about the coaching, I love to coach, especially kids, they are so eager to learn, and their face lights up when the learn something.
Photograph of me and my Prime One STX V2 taken by Justin Su (my 9-year-old son)