ALAMEDA -- Archery often invokes images of medieval times, Renaissance faires and tales of Robin Hood.
Those of a certain age might recall the flaming arrow that lit the 1992 Olympic cauldron at Barcelona or the Atlanta games double-gold medalist Justin Huish making the talk-show circuit four years later.
In more recent years, archery also has featured prominently in such films as "Snow White and the Huntsman," "Brave," "Avengers" and the "Hunger Games" franchise.
Through the years, archery has fit a niche, an activity regarded by some as a cult sport whose popularity runs in fits and starts. Perhaps fueled by those aforementioned recent movies, the sport has enjoyed an uptick of late, of which Nico Gallegos surely can attest.
A certified archery coach and instructor, Gallegos runs Ohlone Archery. And in conjunction with the Alameda Recreation and Parks Department, Gallegos also teaches the sport Thursday evenings at Alameda Veterans Memorial Building.
"There has been a tremendous growth based on the plethora of archers in the movies," said Gallegos, who instructs eight students in his Thursday class and gives private lessons to a half-dozen more at other times. "Hollywood has been a marketing instrument for the sport. Archery shops have struggled to keep up with the demand (for equipment), and demand for instructor certification has gone up significantly."
At the Veterans Memorial Building, Gallegos supplies his students with recurve bows and parabolic-tipped (blunt) arrows. During the Jan. 23 class, the students had progressed to a shooting distance of 30 feet, half the standard distance of actual indoor competitions.
"Most everyone who signs up here is a beginner," Gallegos said. "Either they have never shot before or haven't shot in a long time."
Gallegos, a 1980 Alameda High School graduate who still calls Alameda home, got his first taste of archery as a youth when his father took him to Redwood Bowmen Archery Club in the Oakland hills.
As with many people in a variety of endeavors, Gallegos saw his involvement in archery ebb and flow for a number of years until it became a full-blown passion.
"I dabbled in it off and on," said Gallegos, who serves as director of talent management for Revolution Foods in his day job. "But in the last 10 years, I started competing and coaching and got into the business."
For archery die-hards like Gallegos, the Redwood Bowmen range (located near the Chabot Space and Science Center) exists as one of 12 of its kind (outdoor archery ranges) in Northern California. But for the budding enthusiasts who make up the Thursday night crowd in Alameda, the Veterans Memorial Building works just fine.
For Alameda's Nerissa Mendoza, archery is an interest borne of curiosity.
"I was interested in trying this because I would see it when I would walk my dogs past the (Redwood) Bowman range at Chabot," Mendoza said.
For Mendoza, Thursday nights have become a family event, as her husband, Gregg Prawdzik, comes along and has developed an appreciation for archery, too.
"It's something for my wife and I to do," Prawdzik said. "She signed up first, so I said, 'Why not?' She came the first week, and I joined the second week. I haven't done this since I was 10, 12 years old, but thanks to (Gallegos), I was soon hitting the middle of the target."
Some -- Gallegos being one of them -- might recall archery as part of high school PE instruction. Current Alameda resident Yenju Chen had hoped to sign up for such a class while attending high school in Southern California, only to have the class dropped when her turn came around to register. Still, Chen retained a desire to try the sport. And her children helped further her interest.
"I had never tried archery (after not being able to sign up in high school)," she said, "but my kids did this at ARPD camp, and I wanted to do something new."
As an official sport in 14 Olympiads since 1900, archery has long had its place in the world's sporting consciousness. Huish, the Simi Valley resident with a long ponytail, backward baseball cap and overall unconventional manner, gave the sport a stateside boost in the 1990s. And the movies of today have taken it several steps further.
As a result, increasing numbers of people have taken up the sport. And if the ARPD class is any indication, they are enjoying it to the utmost.
Registration for the current eight-week ARPD archery class, which runs through Feb. 27, has closed. But a spring class will begin in April.
"The Thursday classes are a really good deal -- $78 for eight one-hour classes," Gallegos said. "The usual rate is $25 to $35 for an hour, so this would normally cost $200 to $280."
For more information, go to www.ohlonearchery.com or contact Nico Gallegos at
For those seeking additional -- or perhaps more intense -- private instruction, Gallegos will conduct Saturday morning classes at Alameda Golfworks on Clement Avenue. A spring class will begin in April. Gallegos also will continue to offer Saturday afternoon classes in San Leandro.