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My short-lived foray into archery started, and ended, at summer camp. On my first day, a counsellor called my name at the precise moment I drew back my bow. Without thinking, seven-year-old me turned my entire body, arrow and all, towards them to say, “What?”
Thankfully, I didn’t shoot, but, suffice to say, I wasn’t allowed back to the range.
I had a chance to redeem myself, though, at the opening to Wild Captives’ archery pop-up at Industry City on Wednesday, December 14. Located on Brooklyn’s waterfront, Industry City is 16-building, 6-million-square-foot creative space.
In addition to archery, it hosts Nazz Forge, where visitors can make custom swords, and Carreau Club, the nation’s only pétanque bar. The pop-up will last until January, possibly longer.
Wild Captives is a queer archery brand started by TikToker Kendall Tichner. “I’ve been going to summer camp my whole life,” says Tichner. “I’m kind of a permanent camper. But I only really picked up archery with regularity over the pandemic. So, I guess I’ve been doing it for three years.”
“A lot of times there’s so much equipment and it seems like such a daunting sport to learn,” says Tichner. “But really, if you buy the right beginner equipment, or a bow that’s light and easy enough to use, you can become pretty good pretty quickly.”
“I ordered off Amazon and got it wrong a bunch of times before I found a bow that was a good fit and a good weight for me,” she says.
Wild Captives is currently accepting pre-orders for its archery kit, expected to come out late December or early January. The catchy slogan “Make Them Quiver” appears on the company’s website.
“Our bow is a beginner bow,” says Tichner. “We modeled it after some of the best beginner bows out there. It’s easier to pull back. It’s easier to aim. And it’s pretty intuitive. It’s just a simple machine that people can figure out on their own.”
In terms of archery’s learning curve, Tichner says she was “was surprisingly pretty good” from the very beginning.
“It’s a good sport for people with ADHD because they can hyperfocus on it,” says Tichner. “But I didn’t realize I was good until I started sharing online. And suddenly all these people were like, ‘Wow, I’ve been practicing for five years when I can’t do that.’”
I was surprised to learn that, according to Tichner, “archery is actually rated safer than both bowling and golf.”
“It’s kind of like Pilates in that it’s about resistance,” she says, adding it's hard to make a misfire with their equipment.
“It’s easy on your body, but you do feel it. It’s good exercise,” says Tichner. “A lot of people are like, ‘I tried it, I’m really bad at it.’ I equate that to people who they start lifting weights and they’ll pick up a 40-pound weight and they’re like, ‘I can’t do it.’ That’s because you need a five-pound weight.”
Ticher grew up in the New York suburbs. “I studied urban planning, and I like urban foraging,” she says. “So, I have a big interest in birds and plants and things that thrive amongst us in cities.”
“All these young, queer people and cosplayers kept asking me what brands I recommended for archery, and how they could get started,” says Tichner. “But at that point, every archery company in the U.S. was all white men in rural middle America: I realized there weren’t any brands doing it for an inclusive audience, or even any female-owned brands. So, we’re the first one.”
“We put together a gorgeous, ten-piece kit with everything you need to get started. Usually, they’re meant to camouflage in the woods, but ours is all-white and elegant and a good mix between masculine and feminine.”
Tichner calls Wild Captives a “modern Boy Scouts for adults” — minus all the problematic baggage, of course.
“Our mission is to empower people through using their hands and physically engaging with things,” she says. “We’ve already released a birding guide. We’re going to do a bird birding kit for urban ecology.”
Tichner is especially drawn to the “gamifying” of skills. “Archery is our first one with a patch,” she says.
“It’s amazing to see the community and how many people reach out and say, ‘I’ve never felt represented before, and going to my range, I feel so scared because I’m the only person of color, or I’m the only queer person,’” says Tichner.
“In America, it’s just so associated with gun culture, whereas in other countries it’s about mental health, martial arts, and meditation.” Think: Zen in the Art of Archery.
I was nervous to try my hand at Industry City’s spacious indoor range. Out of my six arrows, only four hit the target, with one barely grazing the edge. The other two hit the hay bales behind.
My last arrow, to my surprise, got close to the center.
It’s all about feeling, Tichner tells me. An experienced archer can do it with their eyes closed. For now, I think, I’ll keep my eyes open.
Saskia Maxwell Keller