Andrea Vasquez investigates why archers are creating content on YouTube.
When YouTube arrived on the internet in 2005 it changed how video – and TV – would be consumed for either. The most-widely used online video platform, it currently records over a billion views every single day.
A small proportion of those are people watching content about archery – both fans of the sport and not. There is a community of creators producing footage focused on the sport, and one of the most successful of those is David Nguyen, an Australian teacher from Melbourne, who is better known online as NuSensei. His YouTube channel has had more than 17 million views since it was launched in 2011.
“I started making archery videos on YouTube for the simple reason that there wasn’t anything out there. At the time there were only a handful of professional seminar videos and most of the content online covered traditional archery or compound bowhunting,” says David.
“I felt that the material was often poorly prepared at not delivered clearly enough, and it got me thinking about how I could approach the topic better.”
Nguyen is typical of many recreational archers. He’s a committed participant at the club level, who occasionally competes in regional events, and searches for improvement through peers in the sport and whatever coaching he can find. If he ever finds a solution to an issue he’s working on in his own archery, he makes a video about it.
“To test the water, the first video I made was on finger tabs. I had bought around five different tabs and thought, you know, it would be nice if someone would make a video to explain the differences for someone who doesn’t know,” he says.
That’s what started the channel. Nearly ten years later, he’s got a catalogue of helpful explanations on all aspects of the sport. He’s also built up quite a following of online fans, who tune in for his (weekly and monthly) question and answer sessions, often held while he’s fletching or completing some other equipment maintenance.
The videos on the NuSensei YouTube channel might not have TV production quality but they are well thought through and comprehensive. David has invested a considerable amount of time in creating his content.
“Depending on the complexity of the topic, it can take hours to weeks for a single video,” he explains. “I’ve always worked as a one-man team, and that means I have to do all the writing, editing and graphics work in the very little time that I have for myself.”
NuSensei’s most popular videos have been those covering archery basics and the common internet searches: comparing recurve to compound bows, target to hunting bows, stringing a bow, the problems with dry firing and what to do about the string slapping your arm.
“It’s interesting because it reveals a lot about what people want to ask, but don’t have the right people to ask,” says David.
“My video on why Olympic archers swing their bows became widely recommended and got over a million views in a month, and is currently sitting on 2.5 million. It taught me a lot about the prospective audience, and it made me think about balancing content directed at current and new archers as well as non-archers.”
Feedback on the NuSensei channel is overwhelmingly positive. Commenters regularly express gratitude at having concepts explained in simple terms. It has even provided a pathway for people to take up archery in the first place, after binge-watching a bunch of content about the sport. “One of the overarching comments is that it breaks down the ‘stuffiness’ of archery and makes it more open and accessible. The down-to-earth approach, simple language and light humour make it feel less exclusive,” says David.
It wasn’t Nguyen’s plan to become a cornerstone of archery’s presence on YouTube but, in his own words, there still just aren’t that many people producing content for the community.
“Nearly every field of interest, from science to tabletop gaming to sports, have large communities filled with creators who are passionate in sharing. But archery has always been closed off,” he says.
“I’d like to see more people build up their own personas and communities within the archery field online. Just as I’ve found ways to cover things better or different, I know there are others out there who can do what I do better or differently.”
“There’s plenty of room for other people to do their own thing.”
Much like Sjef van den Berg and Gijs Broeksma in the Netherlands. The Dutch national team members both have impressive track records as archers and an abundance of personality.
Sjef’s the bigger archery superstar, of course, after finishing fourth at the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro in 2016 – and now frequently guesting in the commentary booth at the World Archery events. Their Triple Trouble channel is still getting moving, but they’re some of the only active international archers with the drive to make original content — and it was part inspired by NuSensei.
“He makes videos that are 15 minutes long about, just, one thing and that’s incredible. I can talk about the bow swing for like 20 seconds. I can tell you why and that’s it,” says Gijs.
It was in December 2016 that Gijs, Sjef and Mick de Bakker began making equipment reviews for JVD, although the content has transitioned more towards humour or topics that pique their own attention.
“I already had the name Triple Trouble. I already had a YouTube channel called Triple Trouble and the Facebook but they weren’t active yet. I just felt that was a good name for archery because everything is in triples,” said Sjef.
“You shoot three arrows, or you shoot six arrows or you shoot 36 arrows. A team consists of three people. I wanted to have that name.”
Self-professed nerds, Triple Trouble started out with whatever gear the guys could get their hands on. It’s progressed – although Mick wandered away from the project – and now Sjef and Gijs are looking to invest in better audio equipment and schedule regular content — including live — going forward.
“If we want to set that up we’ve got to start small,” says Gijs.
Sjef adds: “We want to make videos that are on one side hilarious and spontaneous so that it doesn’t look fake.”
“We don’t want to give people the illusion that we are professional film makers, because we’re not. The last video we put up was an improvised video about Fairweather tabs because Simon happened to be Salt Lake, but we didn’t have a mic and I didn’t have my camera so I did it with my little Olympus.”
“It was a good video for what it contained; the information was good, but the production quality wasn’t.”
“So we need to try and remind people that we do this for fun and not to get big and earn money with it, because that’s not going to happen.”
Triple Trouble doesn’t quite have the numbers compared to say, NuSensei, with around 87500 subscribers — but Sjef and Gijs are starting to offer something important to the archery community: an insight into the lives of young athletes trying to make it on the world stage.
And that appeals to a large group of people who shoot, especially those who follow the Hyundai Archery World Cup circuit or have aspirations to compete at a higher level. But equally important in the archery world are those who are just happy to take their gear out for a day in the woods.
No-one explains that quite as well as ‘Grizzly’ Jim Kent, host, editor and producer of Archery Adventures. It’s a channel that revolves around Jim’s own passion: traditional archery.
“I started in archery over 30 years ago. I grew up on a farm and by nature was a bit of a pain. I discovered an old bow in a barn but as I was only four years old the bow was way too big and heavy for me, so my father built me an extremely simple bow out of a stick,” says Jim.
“Armed with this and the one arrow I had found I set out to play in the woods and fields shooting at stumps, clumps of moss and the odd apple.”
After a few years, Jim’s parents sent him to an archery club and he was given a bow with a sight. He shot recurve and then compound, but was never as comfortable.
“It was only after an epiphany where I realised that I didn’t need all the bells and whistles, or crutches that target shooting offered you, that I went back to where I started — shooting a stick and string — and completely regained my passion,” he says.
“I’ve never really looked back. Traditional archery is a huge part of who I am and a huge part of my lifestyle.”
It’s the passion that comes through in Jim’s videos. Almost entirely self-taught as an archer, he became active in forums and on social media in an attempt to help others learning the pastime. A conversation with another YouTube creator led to the first in a long line of his own short videos.
“I’ve always tried to make my videos with absolute honesty and passion, as well as making them informative and humorous. No one wants to watch a boring video,” says Jim.
“I’ve tried to share as much of my archery as I can with people. Be that walking around the forest with the guys, tutorials, doing a bow review, or sharing my adventures on the many amazing archery trips I’ve been fortunate enough to go on.”
After a successful solo career online, Jim began working for UK-based archery manufacturer and retailer Merlin, launching their YouTube platform. It meant that his own channel had to go on hiatus. He relaunched Archery Adventures again around two years ago, along with his own successful line of traditional archery strings, and has been working hard to rekindle and grow the following.
The passionate online traditional archery community was glad to have him back. “It’s always encouraging to read the really nice comments I get from people. A lot of the feedback I get is truly humbling, especially where I hear someone has gotten into traditional archery because of me,” says Jim.
“I find it mind blowing how a bearded guy in the woods with a bow and a camera can inspire someone to take up something that has been such a massive part of my life.”
Archery is a sport full of people with incredible passion, and NuSensei, Grizzly Jim and Triple Trouble are just a few of the people that have put that passion on camera.
It’s all worth watching and maybe you’ll be tempted to put your own archery in front of the lens.