Rachel Grunwell

Rachel Grunwell is a fitness writer for the Herald on Sunday.

Fitness challenge: Archery

Each week intrepid reporter Rachel Grunwell will try out a new form of exercise to bring you the lowdown.

At One Tree Hill in Auckland enthusiasts fire arrow after arrow to perfect their scores. Photo / Greg Bowker
At One Tree Hill in Auckland enthusiasts fire arrow after arrow to perfect their scores. Photo / Greg Bowker

What is it? You use a bow to shoot arrows at a target, aiming to strike the centre. The person with the highest score, ie, whose arrows are closest to the centre of the target most often, wins.

What's needed? Clubs have all the gear: target boards, bows, arrows and leather hand protectors. Try it and if you like it, you may want to buy your own gear. Comfortable shoes, with closed tops, are recommended.

The experience: Auckland's One Tree Hill would have to be one of the prettiest spots for a sport, especially in autumn. I'm at Auckland Archery Club, surrounded by dewy grass and clusters of rocks. The sun is throwing light on that famous statue at the top of the hill, moody grey clouds are about, there's a flock of meandering sheep fenced off to one side of the hill and bright red, yellow and orange leaves float off trees.

A cluster of archers line up, shooting arrows at their individual targets, going for gold (that's the "yellow" centre of the target). The arrows make a "thock, thock" sound as the arrows pierce the boards.

There's quiet chatter among those waiting for their turn. Then a whistle blows to signal everyone to stop shooting so the archers can safely collect their arrows. This cycle continues during the day as each archer tries to better their own shot. Those who are more skilled can shoot from longer distances. All types of people are here: young, old, boys, girls, mature men and women and families, those who are super-strong and those who are more like me. That's the beauty of archery - most people can do it. Caroline Geelen, aged 28, sums up why she keeps coming back: "It tends to be addictive".

Sam Wong, a university student and archer of five years, says he loves it because "there's just you, the bow and the target and no luck involved". Sam is my coach today (all beginners have a coach for their, and others', safety). He takes me into the club to practise at boards in an enclosed space (in case I'm a really bad shot). I ask if anyone has "accidentally" shot a "roast lamb" and he tells me no sheep (or person) has ever been aimed at. The safety of the sport is taken "very seriously". There are old, dense telephone directories above the targets. It's good to see they're still useful for something. Sam hands me a 66-inch, 22-pound re-curve bow and six blue and orange aluminium arrows. I step back at the beginners' blocks, 5m from the target, and hold the bow. I keep my shoulders low, draw from the back and have the arrow at chin-height as I aim for the bullseye. Yay, my shot gets the outer edge of the target. But the woman next to me puts her first arrow in the black ring, and laughs, "I did that with my eyes closed!" Darn. Suddenly, I'm a Robin Hood wannabe (or an older version of Katniss Everdeen from teen movie The Hunger Games) vowing to better each next shot. I want to get the arrow in the bullseye and find myself not wanting to put the bow down. The closest I get is within the blue circle, only inches from that elusive golden shot. I now know why people keep going back.

How much? Auckland Archery Club, at One Tree Hill, holds coaching courses of four two-hour lessons on Saturday mornings for $180. Anyone older than 10 years can go.

Worth it? The experience was quirky and rather cool. This is not a sport where you get fit, but it could be a fun individual or family sport. The target distance moves further away as shooters improve. How many other sports could accommodate a large family doing the same thing at the same time?

Try it: It's free at Have a Go Days. The next of these at Auckland Archery Club is in September on a date yet to be posted on their website, or there are other archery groups in Auckland.

Rating? 7/10 I would have got even more of a kick out of it if my eldest son had come along.

- Herald on Sunday

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