Published in National Post. [Toronto magazine, July 19, 2008.]
A different kind of point & shoot
Throughout its existence, Casa Loma has been one of the city's stranger sights. A majestic castle built in 1914, its stables alone have been home to everything from regal horses to Second World War-era sonar research. That the stables are now currently home to an archery program seems normal.
Casa Loma's resident archer is Sir Shawn Adams, a self-appointed knight and an aspiring stuntman, who offsets his regal title with a relaxed attitude and beach shorts. A former medieval dinner theatre actor, Adams fell into archery after sustaining a competitive jousting injury in Alberta. Forsaking horse and lance for bow and arrows, Adams first brought his archery skills to Casa Loma four years ago during its Renaissance fair. Last year, he struck a deal to operate a drop-in archery range for interested visitors.
"I take pride in what I do here because the customer really leaves getting some knowledge out of it," he says.
On the days that he's around the stables, Adams offers what he describes as "a five minute introductory lesson to archery." For $7, a participant receives a lesson and 10 arrows. Within minutes, participants learn proper archery form and how to load a bow.
"It doesn't take very long to show someone the basics and get them shooting relatively effectively," Adams says. "It's a good introductory lesson and for people visiting out of town that are interested, I always refer them to a club in their area."
Although lessons are short, Adams doesn't skim over details. Participants shoot at 60 cm targets from a distance of approximately 10 metres using lightweight arrows with reverse curve bows, the same type used in the Olympics. While he admits that he intentionally uses larger than necessary targets, Adams feels that it adds to the workshop's appeal.
"It's that feeling of learning something and succeeding," he says. "When people start, they're really not that good but by the end of those 10 shots, they've really achieved something."
As part of the lesson, Adams uses his training from South Nation Archery, an archery school outside of Ottawa, to provide hands-on tips on proper form. "Your form comes first," he explains. "I do a lot of exercises with t archer having his or her eyes closed. It sounds crazy, but in the beginning you're not worried about aiming. And when te form tightens up, we start working a lot more on the aiming."
Due to the popularity of the drop-in lessons, Adams offers specialized three-hour archery workshops throughout the summer for $30. Groups of up to 18 students shoot at balloons that cover the range. The workshop includes extensive instruction on form, but as Adams says, "I try to have a little more fun and incorporate games."
As Lou Seiler, Casa Loma's director of marketing, knows, the fun seems to be contagious. "The program has been so popular we had requests to expand it," he says. "We introduced an adult class that just sold out, so we may look at adding another adult program."
Shawn Adams' archery program runs throughout the summer. Visit casaloma.org/seasonal for dates he's available, or call 416-923-1171 ext. 215 or 205 for details.