'Larping' in Port Orchard offers space for everyone

PORT ORCHARD, Wash. -- A battle is brewing in Port Orchard, only this battle isn’t over land, religion or freedom. It’s a battle for honor, and it’s called Belegarth.

"Larping” - or live-action role-playing - is a game that's picking up steam across the nation.

Within the Medieval Combat Society, it is a full-contact battle game in which participants use foam weapons.

Anna Crosbie joined three years ago.

“I think about the book of war. I think about the rules," she said.

The sport and its players do not discriminate, but they may just change your mind like they did for June Bordas.

“I always kind of looked down on larpers because it was like, 'Oh, I’m not one of those nerds, and then I tried it and it was a lot of fun," she said. “It’s been a place of acceptance and experience, and it’s also a place where you can grow.”

Candie Howie just joined, but she hasn’t fought yet.

“Here, everybody is welcome. It doesn’t matter your gender, your size, your race, your, your ethnicity," she said.

Each of the 30 active Talinor of the Emerald Coast members has a reason for joining. Crosbie says hers was about heartbreak.

“There have been a few times, especially after my son’s father and I split up, that I really thought of just quitting," she said.

Another member, Zack Wears, joined after his divorce.

"It was a little rough," he said.

Heartache might have brought Wears to the game, but the camaraderie is why he stayed.

“I don’t drink or nothing like that ... it’s kinda nice to have something to do outside of, you know, the typical party scene," he said.

Regardless of the reason, one thing is constant. The bond between the members is that of a family, literally.

“My son has been participating for just shy of two months," Howie said. “Everybody that has had a teenager knows sometimes it would be really nice to hit your teenager with a bat. I get to do it in a safe environment with people cheering me on. What’s not to love?”

The rule book is pretty extensive. All weapons are tested out before battle, and a great grandmother watching her great-grandsons is paying attention.

“Now over they said something about if you hit 'em in the head, they’re dead?” Joan Lingenfelter asked.

Headshots aren’t legal unless it’s with a projectile like a rock or a javelin.

Anthony Feret does a weapons check to keep safety a priority.

“It’s definitely a contact sport, but we try to minimize any potential injuries," he said.

So, in true medieval combat society fashion, teams from communities across our region meet on the field and engage in what Wears and other members call “consensual violence.”

“We all mesh. We all just want to hit each other. That’s what it comes down to.”

Bordas encourages everyone, especially women, to join.

“If you are interested in getting involved with stick whackery or foam fighting, there is certainly a group near you — I promise you that," she said.

Talinor, Knights of the Emerald Coast are welcoming new members. Participants must be at least 16 years old. For kids who are 14 or 15 and want to participate, the group makes exceptions with parental consent on a case-by-case basis.