I woke up one Saturday morning with a pain. Glancing at my left forearm, I saw a 4-inch bruise and was quickly reminded why it hurt. Then I smiled.
I smiled not because I had a gnarly black-and-blue contusion on my forearm, but because I began to reminisce about the night before, when I tried archery for the first time.
I had wondered if people other than competitors in the sport or children in summer camp still partake in such an activity.
To answer this question, I paid a visit to Orange County Archery, a store in Fountain Valley specializing in all things bow related, and took a lesson Friday night.
I met up with the store's manager, Kevin Clark, and chatted with him before the class started. He and his family have been in the city for 14 years and have continued to see new customers take up archery as a hobby.
He explained that the popularity of the sport has come in waves usually tied to movies. He's seen the "Rambo" crowd, the "Lord of the Rings" fanboys and now a surge of folks who just watched "The Hunger Games" and are trying to harness their inner Katniss Everdeen.
"For a while, people were using terms like 'Bringing out their inner Legolas' and that type of thing," Clark said.
That Friday was oddly slow for the store, Clark said. The only people taking the class that night were Dan Geil, a 26-year-old high school teacher from Fountain Valley, and me.
Geil told me that he had been taking frequent lessons at Orange County Archery since December. He had shot a bow a few times when he was younger and found some time to pick up the hobby again.
After quick pleasantries, I was given one of the store's rental bows and an arm guard to wear on my left forearm. This proved to provide little to no protection because of my improper form.
Clark gave me a rundown on the do's and don'ts of the 20-yard shooting range and an introduction to how to hold the bow and release the string correctly.
As he was instructing me in the basics, I started realizing why so many people try archery. It isn't physically daunting for the most part, unless you're pulling 40 pounds or more of draw weight. I happened to be pulling 22 pounds, which is pull weight most beginners start with.
The mechanics of shooting a bow are quite easy as well. To put it simply, you hold the bow and aim with your left hand, draw and release the string with your right hand.
After Clark was done teaching me the basics, the only thing left to do was apply the lessons. Easier said than done.
The first arrow I shot managed to hit the paper target 20 yards down range, but it was nowhere near the target face. I also managed not to hit my forearm, but that didn't last very long.
The string rapped my arm time and time again. I tried to move the arm guard further up my arm, but that didn't help.
Glaring at the large red mark on my arm that I knew was going to turn into a bruise, I figured out what I was doing wrong. I wasn't holding the bow properly; I was hyperextending my arm and exposing that portion of my forearm that kept getting hit.
I was also releasing the string incorrectly. The right way of doing that is to hold the string up to the corner of your mouth and merely let go, but what I kept doing was moving my hand away from my mouth ever so slightly and changing the trajectory, which happened to end at my forearm.
The pain from the lashes, however, wasn't bothering me at all. I was transfixed watching my arrows soaring down range and hitting the target — and later the balloons that Clark pinned to the wall.
The satisfaction of popping a balloon and managing to tightly group arrows together is what hooked me on archery.
After Friday's lesson, I was itching to go back and shoot. That night, I kept thinking about perfecting my form and puncturing more paper targets.
I had to cover a paintball tournament down at the sands of Huntington Beach on Saturday morning, but after chatting with the event organizer and a few of the competitors, I booked it to Orange County Archery and bought myself some archery equipment.
I spent just a tick over $250 for the essentials: a recurve bow, half a dozen arrows, a shooter's glove, a quiver and a stringer to disassemble the bow — as well as an arm guard.
Unlike Friday night, the store was packed, the majority of the people shooting at the range. There was a mother and her sons, a couple on a date and some store regulars.
I started chatting with a woman at the end of the range who was also testing a bow that she bought that afternoon.
I asked her how she got into archery, and she quickly told me it wasn't because of "The Hunger Games" but rather a way for her to cope with depression.
She told me that she and her husband would go to a gun range from time to time, but she wanted something more relaxing and found that archery was the right hobby for her.
Every time I sent an arrow down the range, I too found that archery was the right hobby for me. Archery is an activity that people are discovering, and I'm one of its newest members. Bruises and all.