You're sprinting through the rugged terrain
of a 40-acre eucalyptus grove, your heart pounding, adrenaline
pumping, covering your friends and hunting down your enemies as
deadly projectiles fly at you at up to 280 feet per second.
A new video game? Better - Paintball, a real, live, strategy
thrill-and-kill team sport, where "killing" someone
means blasting them with a pellet of paint - before they blast
Paintball is neck-and-neck with snowboarding as the fourth most popular "extreme" sport in America today (America Sports Data). So why is it so popular? In a primal, Darwinian way, the fear of being "eliminated" gets adrenaline pumping to high levels. If you're looking for a great way to blow off steam, vent aggression on co-workers, get an instant rush, or just have "balls of fun," paintball is for you.
Make Paint Not War
"A lot of people compare it to war and violence but it's nothing like that. You don't come out to hurt someone. It's like tag, but with paintballs," says Dawn O'Neill, General Manager of Cousins Paintball in Deer Park, New York. O'Neill explains that paintball is more about working strategically with a team, than killing off everyone else around you. Those who love competition and are strategic thinkers will love paintball.
"As with chess, you need to think three to four moves ahead to beat your opponent," explains Ralph Warren of Warren Paintball, a three-year-old paintball field in Auburn, Washington. This sort of recreation is ideal for a group of employees interested in developing teamwork and communication. "It's a great team-building sport. People who play best, play as a team. Solo players don't do well. You really have to work together to win. Also, if you can run fast, hold positions, and pay attention, you'll do well," says Warren.
Blast Your Significant Other
Paintball can be a unique date, but it's even better to go with your -ex, as you can work out those unresolved issues on the combat field. But if you're both beginners, be warned. "Women are usually better as beginners. They control their breathing better and can think well during combat," says David Bassman, a 15-year paintball veteran with Los Angeles-based Conquest Paintball. "They get the same adrenaline rush as a man, but they don't get the testosterone-based urge to fight, which can cloud thinking."
Paintball consists of a variety of scenarios and game styles. The most common are Capture the Flag, and Elimination. Besides staying alive and living through a firefight (battle), another objective may be attacking or defending a fortified bunker. You usually play with a team of 5-10 players, but you can play also play Hide and Seek with just 2 people.
"It's very much like soccer in that you have two teams, 5-10 individuals on each team, and your goal is to get to the other side of the field," says O'Neill. "The game really tests how you react under pressure. You develop many skills that transfer over from everyday life."
A referee (or two) on the field verifies kills, assists with equipment, and, in the spirit of general fair play, enforces the rules. There is a surrender rule which serves to protect you from undue pain: If an opponent comes within ten feet of you, he must give you the choice to surrender, over being shot at close range. In professional paintball leagues, they play "tournament" style with a point system. Points are earned for not getting hit or pulling a flag. Professionals are extremely competitive and usually play for trophies or prize money.
Paintball guns shoot balls of paint at speeds of up to 280 feet per second. So just what kind of pain are you in for? "A ball's impact is like a sting from a fat rubber band. It's more startling than painful," says Joe Pommier of 14-year-old Bear Creek Pursuit Paintball, in Bear Creek, California. "The sting is like a 'rat's tail,' like being whipped with a wound-up towel. It stings for a few seconds, but then goes away by the next game," says Dawn O'Neill. "You get bruises, but it's worth it," says Ken Price, a 16-year veteran of the sport, and owner of Paintball Paradise in San Francisco.
If you want to go all out, you can rent or buy camouflage jackets and overalls. You need only some dark colored clothing, that you won't mind washing paint out of at the end of the day. If you don't want to do that, most places rent clothing. You can rent all the equipment you need for the day which includes: Goggles, face mask, semi-automatic paint gun and carbon dioxide (CO2). Goggles and full-face mask are required to protect your ears, forehead, and face.
The paint guns are powered by CO2, which is included in a gear package. You can usually upgrade to an automatic gun with compressed air, which is more accurate for an additional fee. Most places require that you buy paint from their field if you are renting equipment. If you are self-equipped, you can usually bring your own paint on the field. Costs and rules vary from field to field.
A day on a paintball field (8:30am -4:00pm): Anywhere from $25 to $85, total. *
Field Entry/Admission: $15-$20 *
Rental Equipment including goggles, face mask, CO2: $0-$20, $10 average *
Some goggles and facemasks are free with admission. Some gear packages include a paint harness and kneepads. *
Rented Clothing: $1-$7 *
Paint: On average, you'll use 500 - 1,000 rounds of paintballs in a day of play; $25 for 600 rounds, $45 for 1,200 rounds
Go for It!
Ready to enjoy a paintball day? Here are TheMan's picks for paintball venues in Seattle, San Francisco, New York, and Los Angeles.
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