By P.J. Reilly
World Archery recently created a new division for its record book: Barebow.
This fast-growing style of competitive archery will likely expand even faster now that the sport’s world governing body recognizes its records.
“This helps legitimize it, and now everyone has something to shoot for,” said John Demmer, a top barebow archer with several U.S. national championships on his resume.
World Archery officially added the barebow category to its record book in January 2020. The organization ratified its first slate of records April 1 with scores shot the previous three months.
That effort added 23 records to the book. Most were for indoor rounds shot at 18 and 25 meters, but a few 50-meter outdoor records also gained entry. New Zealand archers claimed all the outdoor records because it’s the only nation so far to hold a sanctioned outdoor event. Most of the archery world starts competing outdoors in May.
Records remain available at all three of those distances in male and female divisions in the Cadet (age 15 to 17), Junior (age 18 to 20), Adult (any age), and Masters (50 and older) classes.
Records will be listed for 60-arrow ranking rounds at 18 and 25 meters, and for 72-arrow and 144-arrow rounds outdoors.
Barebow records worldwide were kept previously by several organizations, and for many rounds and distances. Demmer said World Archery’s records set a uniform standard worldwide.
“Everyone will shoot the same rounds,” Demmer said. “That’s going to connect barebow archers everywhere.”
Barebow is archery’s simplest form. World Archery rules state that recurve bows must be drawn by hand, and have no sights, stabilizers or draw checks. The only bow attachments allowed are an arrow rest and weights below the grip. The weights must attach tightly to the bow, because all barebow rigs must pass through a 12.2-centimeter ring to be used.
Because they can’t use sights, barebow archers use various aiming methods, but most use the arrow’s tip at full draw as an aiming reference.
Aiming without a sight, and drawing a recurve without a draw check or clicker —which help archers release each arrow at the same draw distance — make consistency difficult. That’s why high-end barebow archers might shoot an arrow into the 4- or 5-point ring. Compound and Olympic recurve archers rarely shoot outside the gold section (9 or 10 points) on standard World Archery targets.
A 4- or 5-point arrow can still help a barebow archer win, however.
“In barebow, you can shoot a 5 and it’s not the end of the world,” Demmer said. “We don’t have to be perfect. I think that’s what people like about it.”
Plus, barebow archers have the most fun, Demmer said. And he’s a big reason why. He competes at major events wearing gawdy board shorts, bright pink sneakers and superhero T-shirts. Tension can be palpable among other tournament archers, but barebow shooters are often boisterous when competing.
“We don’t take ourselves too seriously,” Demmer said.
Meanwhile, barebow shooting is soaring in popularity, especially in the United States. Over 200 archers, for example, competed in the Recurve Barebow Flights division at the 2020 National Field Archery Association Vegas Shoot. Just two years earlier, barebow archers shooting recurves and compounds competed together in one division with less than 100 competitors.
At the 2020 Lancaster Archery Classic, strong participation — 185 men and 60 women — allowed male and female barebow archers to compete separately for the first time. A few years earlier, about 125 male and female barebow archers combined competed in the Classic. Women’s open was the only female division at the Classic with more competitors than women’s barebow.
Men and women barebow archers still competed against each other at USA Archery’s 2020 Indoor Nationals, but participation increased over 100 archers from the previous year.
Demmer noted a strong barebow showing in the collegiate ranks at U.S. Indoor Nationals, which drew 93 men and 80 women. He said that means barebow archery is reaching younger archers.
“Now that colleges have barebow archery, and scholarships will be available, you’ll see more and more kids taking up barebow,’’ Demmer said.
As with adults, young barebow archers can also shoot for world records. Some of the records posted so far are decent, Demmer said. That includes Claire Xie’s 543 in women’s barebow for a 60-arrow, 18-meter round; Ake Svensson’s 549 in men’s barebow for a 60-arrow, 25-meter round; and Carol Richards’ 524 in master women’s barebow for a 60-arrow, 18-meter round.
Demmer expects other records, especially the outdoor scores, to change rapidly as more competitions are held worldwide.
“The more exposure barebow can get, the more people seem to be attracted to it,” Demmer said. “This is really a good time for all of us. It’s only going to get bigger.”