#htmlcaption1 Woodsball Big Games Tournament Paintball Where Do You Fit In? More Paintball Tipps

Wednesday, November 1, 2006

Paintball Hits the Mark

For adrenaline junkies: Paintball hits the mark
It's intense, fun and can pack a sting
Story by Dean Lisk - The Daily News
Photos by Sabrena MacKenzie - The Daily News

It was at a birthday party, about seven years ago, that Austin Flaherty discovered paintball.

"I was scared, to be honest," said the 21-year-old about his experience. "Like every new player, I was scared about getting hit."

The Halifax resident didn't last long. He was killed about five minutes into his first game. It literally happened with a bang.

"My ego was destroyed, my pride was hurt, but I was ready to play again. It was different than anything I played before."

Ask anyone who plays paintball, and they will tell you the same thing. This sport - think of it as a form of tag - sees opposing teams face off against each other in a large wooded setting (woodsball) or small fenced-in course (speedball).

Each player has a gun, which can fire a soft-shelled paintball at players on the opposing team. Players are eliminated one-by-one until one team wins, or a pre-set time limit runs out.

"This is very much a sport for adrenaline junkies," said Flaherty, who bought his first gun - referred to as a marker - a couple of years later.

The Wal-Mart employee is spending his Sunday at Mersey Field Paintball in East River, about 40 minutes from downtown Halifax. It is one of about half-a-dozen paintball courses in and around the HRM.

"When that first ball whizzes by your head, none of your teammates are there, and you hear five guys running toward you, it's scary," Flaherty said.

A recent graduate of a computer-programming course at Nova Scotia Community College, Flaherty said he likes that it is a thinking game, a strategy game.

"You've got to know how exposed you are, watch out for the guys over here, and shoot at the guys over there. I like the strategy aspect of it. It's not just a shooting game.

"It wasn't hard," Flaherty said about taking aim at another human. "I think part of the reason was that I am a video-game junkie. Pointing guns at people is what you do in video games.

"The first time is scary. You are worried. You don't want to hurt the person. But, you want to win. They way I look at it, is it's a game, and I am not actually pointing a rifle at somebody."

Still, he admits his paint gun - and those of most other paintball enthusiasts - is tricked-out and modified to look like an assault rifle.

He and a lot of the other teens and adults at Mersey Field are dressed in camouflage, enhancing the war-like feel of the game. His fatigues are padded to deaden the impact of the balls, which can leave welts and bruises depending on where they hit.

The paintball field, strewn with empty paintball shells, is operated by Jim Langlois and his brother, Howie. Paintball enthusiasts, they started the business around seven years ago.

"We were just a bunch of guys playing paintball here in the woods," said Jim Langlois. "More people kept coming, and the groups started getting bigger, so I started selling paints."

During the week, many of his reservations come from sports teams, kids celebrating birthdays, and businesses trying to get their employees to work together. On Sundays, he holds a walk-on game, where people are divided into teams and play for 20-minute intervals.

The brothers created war-themed woodsball area - complete with bunkers, abandoned buildings, lookouts and a fake helicopter - and a speedball field with inflatable bunkers and walls people can hide behind to play the more competitive speedball game.

They are all covered in different red, green, blue and yellow paint splatter.

"You see a lot of father-son stuff here," said Langlois. "In that case, dad is very happy to see his kid get away from the chesterfield, and the computer, and the television, and get outside.

"Girl-wise, it is starting to catch on."

Usually, players are 12 and older, but he will let younger kids play against each other. He said it's when you start mixing older kids with younger ones that problems can develop.

"Some of the older guys usually let up on the younger ones, but there are instances when they shoot them when they should have asked them to surrender," he said. "But, the kids love it."

Langlois said following their games, the players will hangout and tell their big fish tales - or in this case, war stories. The shot they hit, and the one that got away. When this happens, they usually stop by Howie's concession stand.

"I think people like the excitement," he said. "You get kids who are 10 years old, and adults who are 30 or 40 years old, and they get talking and you can't tell if they are kids or adults.

"I think the kids would rather shoot the adults than they would the other kids."

This may be the case, but Langlois is there to make sure they do it safely. At one point he stops the interview for a to remind a teenager to put a barrel plug back into his gun.

If the gun fires, it will stop the paintball from exiting the barrel. They can fly more than 90 metres per second.

"The kids have got to understand the gun is a dangerous thing, they've got to understand there is safety equipment that needs to be worn," Langlois said.

"And, they got to realize it's about fair play, too."

No comments:

Post a Comment