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Paintball: so good it hurts

Bastian Neumann 2009

In the world of extreme sports, paintball is pretty famous. There are leagues like The National Professional Paintball League, Paintball Sports Promotions, and many others outside of the United States. Here’s how it works: you run around with a paintball gun and shoot your enemy with pellets full of paint.  It sounds unsafe, but for the people who play say it’s fun and a great rush. KALW Student Reporter Christian Rose, an avid paintballer himself, headed out to the field to see just what’s so appealing about the game.

You have to play it to believe it

About once a month, fifteen friends and I meet up in Vacaville to shoot each other with bright orange paint. We spend about six hours running around a field hiding in large wooden bunkers, and waiting for our chance to tag our enemies, I mean, friends.

Some people might think of paintball as a barbaric sport, but to me it’s fun. In fact, addictive. My friend Alberto Hernandez thinks so, too.

“I play paintball because it’s an addiction.  You just get hooked up, just by playing.  It’s like an escape from reality,” Hernandez agrees.

Alberto has been playing for almost four years. I’ve played with him for about a year. He invited me along one day, and it was so much fun that I wanted to go again -- and again. Now I go about once a month. And before every game I listen to some music to pump myself up for what’s up ahead.

My friends Alberto and Reggie Hernandez have little rituals prior to each match.

“Before every game, I kind of pray it’s a good game, everyone has fun and no injuries,” says Alberto. “I usually stretch, and then give a heartfelt speech with my team,” explains Reggie.

Although you’re only getting splattered with paint, that paint pellet needs to break, and when it breaks it hurts. So we always wear gear like protective jerseys and tactical vests to keep us from getting too many bumps and bruises. I play paintball at a few different places, but they always have a staff member give the rules to beginners and newcomers, like in Vacaville.

“Rule one is the most important safety rule: you have to keep your goggles on and down at all times,” warned one employee.

This is the most important rule because if that paintball hits your eye, you could get temporarily blinded and maybe even have retinal damage. So you are going to need a mask. But once you have that you are completely safe! Besides the bumps and bruises... But you won’t really get seriously hurt.

My friend Christopher DeCastro says, “People think it’s dangerous, when it’s not really dangerous, it’s one of the most safest sports out there. You won't get any serious injuries, like the chances of getting a serious injury is like one out of two-hundred-thousand people.”

I did some research, and the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission reports paintball is safer than bowling. I love paintball because I get to get all my frustrations out. It’s hard to explain, but it’s awesome.  I’m just 16, but I get stressed out sometimes. I have family responsibilities, I‘m worried about school and college, and about a lot about my future. But with paintball, I can forget about it all for a bit. Alberto, Chris, and Reggie explain it this way:

“You’re in a small box, small field, and nothing else in the world matters except for those four or five minutes of the game.  All you’re focused on is playing and trying to keep the adrenaline pumping,” says Alberto.

Chris explains, “When I’m playing it feels like nothing else matters. It’s an unbelievable feeling that you feel every time, when you play paintball. It’s just indescribable, you have to play it to believe it.”

Reggie concurs. “You just feel free and you feel like the outside world doesn’t really have anything to affect you. It’s just you.”

The thing I don’t like about paintball is that it’s not really that popular. Even though we try to have other people play with us, they’re still are hesitant. But sometimes they do. So here are some reasons why you should go out and play, from people who know.

Reggie says, “You really have nothing to lose. Paintball isn’t, it’s just scary on what people put or what society puts on it because you're shooting, and if you get hit it’ll hurt. But after you get through the pain it’s just really fun. And it makes you wanna come back again.”

Christopher encourages, “I mean you only have one life. You might as well try as many things as you can before your life ends. Just give it a shot,”

And when you give it a shot... don’t get shot! Unless you want to get covered in paint.

Christian Rose is a rising senior at San Francisco's Burton High School, where KALW is based, and a student reporter.