When Erik Schwartz began shooting at the archery range across the street from the startup he worked at, the Los Altos Hills resident never imagined that he would be competing with Team USA six years later at the 2017 World Archery 3D Championships.
“I just started going there at lunchtime, because it was a nice way to not think about startups and not think about technology and just do something completely different,” he said. “I got relatively good at it pretty quickly, mostly because I was shooting every single day at lunch.”
Schwartz entered his first competition in 2012, participating in the barebow and traditional classes. He said the simplicity of barebow is what led him to pick the discipline.
“(Barebows) look a lot like your old-fashioned, Robin Hood bow, except made out of modern material,” he said. “I really liked the simplicity of that. … I found all the fizzly mechanical bits of the more complicated bows too much of a direct (correlation) to my life.”
Schwartz continued competing, and, after taking some time off for a shoulder injury earlier this year, took part in the U.S. Team Trials in Illinois. He earned a spot on the team after finishing third in the barebow division.
“It’s surprisingly cool, putting on a Team USA jersey. … It’s hard to put into words,” he said.
The team traveled to Robion, France, to participate in the World Archery 3D Championships Sept. 19-24. Held in alternating years with the World Field Championships, the 3D Championships involve shooting at three-dimensional targets. Archers are not told the distance to their targets, which can be located uphill or downhill on variable footing.
“The thing that’s interesting about the unmarked distances and shooting 3D is that no two shots are ever exactly alike, so you have to shoot the same every time as far as your technique is concerned,” Schwartz noted. “Since the shots are all different distances, every shot is different, and that melding of really consistent technique with everything else completely different around you is really fascinating to me.”
According to Schwartz, his goal for the competition – his first international experience – was to make it into the qualifiers and elimination rounds.
“Once I’m in the eliminations, anything could happen,” he said. “My goal is (also) to have fun and meet a lot of interesting people.”
The U.S. men’s team won gold, with individual archers placing in the middle of the pack, Schwartz said, adding that the course was a lot harder than expected.
“The courses they had set up were probably the most challenging courses they had ever set up, (according to) the people that shot this event before,” he said. “They were kind of carved into the side of a mountain, and they were very steep. … They worked hard to set up shots that were very deceiving as to how far away the targets were.”
Although he didn’t make it to the quarterfinals – finishing 40th – Schwartz said the competition was a good experience.
“It was fascinating to me to see all these people from all over the world,” he said. “It was also fun to come together with a lot of different Americans from all over the country and travel. … This country is so big that there was as much diversity in the American team as there was between the American team and a lot of other countries.”
Schwartz added that his experience will shape the way he practices in the future.
“My practice should be a lot about challenging myself with steep up and down shots, with deceptive shots, and much less about working through quiver after quiver,” he said. “I have to challenge myself harder to get ready for next year.”
Schwartz said he looks forward to the indoor season and will try to make Team USA for next year’s World Field Championships. He also aims to compete in the next 3D World Championships, with the goal of placing in the top eight two years from now.