C isco Manzo’s fascination with bows and arrows started when he was a 7-year-old picking up sticks and twigs and turning them into makeshift equipment. When he was 9, he got his first fiberglass bow, a “piece of junk” that he used for practice.
Now, Manzo builds his own wooden longbows and has started the Boulder Archery and Roving Club, which has been building in membership since early this fall. Manzo said he hopes the group will promote the traditions of Old World archery, which does not involve hunting or shooting at animals, and is looking for privately owned land for the group to use.
We caught up with Manzo to talk longbows, roving and finding joy outside of common Boulder activities.
How did you decide to build your own longbows?
I bought a bow about eight months ago, a regular longbow from the internet, and right around the time that happened, I had actually crashed on my bike and broke my collarbone. I was laid up for two months, so during those two months I couldn’t shoot the bow I had gotten because it was too heavy. I looked at the bow and thought, ‘I could make one of these.’ I bought a book and tried it out. I failed miserably. It was really bad. I didn’t have the right tools. I was trying to go at it with Duct tape, a hammer and a screwdriver. I was disappointed. I’m an artist as well been successful with paintings and murals. I think the artist sense in me said, ‘You can do better than this.’
As an artist, what is so appealing about making your own longbows?
For me it’s the fact that I’m working with a completely different medium than I’ve ever used. I was never a wood guy in my life, so for me when I started I was a little apprehensive because I didn’t know how to use band saws or those kinds of things. I was used to paint, and pencils and charcoals and pastels, but I’m one of those people who likes to learn things. When I actually created the first bow that I thought was pretty decent I was really proud of myself. I know that as an artist, when you begin something you always get better as you go.
I like the way it feels. I like the smell of the wood. It’s something that can last for years and years and years if it’s made right and taken care of.
What exactly is roving?
You go out in nature with your bow and arrows while walking around, looking at the land and shooting at objects that the land has for you. Patches of grass, bushes, the tops of mountains, areas over lakes, the bases of trees.
It’s what the English did when training. It was mandatory that all archers go out and rove for a few hours. It was the king’s way of keeping them in training and it was a social event. Families were involved in it.
It’s a non-competitive social gathering. We all meet and we begin by saying, ‘OK, let’s do a distance shot.’ We all pull our bows out and see who can shoot the farthest. The winner of each category will get to call the next action.
Why has archery become your passion?
As a whole, we get so stuck in the routine of what we always do day-to-day in Boulder. We run, we ride our bikes, we climb, we walk our dogs. I love all that, but I’m one that always wants something more. That’s how I felt when I started getting into archery. Now it’s become more a passion and a drive to bring this activity to Boulder.
–Follow Sarah Kuta on Twitter: @SarahKuta.