MINDEMOYA—Most people have probably heard of paintball and may have even spent some time playing the game in the bush with friends or watching the characters on the television show The Big Bang Theory try their hand at it. What is perhaps not known is that the game had its origins in Australia where shepherds would mark their sheep using air guns and paint. Paint balls were also used in forestry to mark trees and the sport was utilized extensively in armed forces and police training for riot control and to subdue individuals.
Although rules may differ in different competitions, the object of the sport is to eliminate opposing team members before they eliminate you and to gain access to the opposing team’s flag. In competition, players usually play on areas with bunkers which have the same layout on each side of the field. The number of players varies from one-on-one all the way up to 200 people and team members are eliminated when hit with a paintball that breaks open on impact and is fired from a gun. The filling of this ball is biodegradable and water soluble and is easily removed from clothing and skin. Other equipment includes a pressurized gas tank, paint pods holder and a ventilated mask
Paintball has now evolved into a fast-paced sport with professional and semi-professional teams in North America, Europe, Australia and Asia with names like Edmonton Impact, Los Angeles Infamous and Moscow Red Legion. The first official paintball tournament was held in New Hampshire in 1981.
Randy Campbell of Mindemoya is a paintball expert and has played the game since 2007. “Alex Bondi had a field and I had a field and we used to play,” he explained. “We used to get guys from all over the Island, anyone who had a paintball gun, and we would play. Alex and I got really involved and it was like a dream come true to have the equipment and travel.” Four years ago he started playing in Sudbury, joined a team and played in Kitchener and Ottawa. The following year, he and a friend tried out for a semi-pro team in Kitchener and also a Paintball Sports Promotions (PSP) team with tryouts in London. Mr. Campbell made both teams and played with PSP in Texas, Maryland, Chicago and Riverside, California. He has sponsors for paint and equipment including Empire Intensity Customs Ntensity which supplies jerseys and headbands, RPS Paint and Key Action Sports for equipment, but pays for his own flights, hotels and meals.
Mr. Campbell plays on a team, mostly made up of players from southern Ontario, which can have 12 people, but is usually kept to eight members plus coaches and the pit staff. He and his team have made it to the quarter finals in a contest involving 64 teams. As he explained, the game is played on soccer team grass and is physically demanding. “You snap out of a bunker,” Mr. Campbell said, “and you are constantly moving, up and down, and you are usually playing in very hot conditions. It begins like a chess game. There is a lot of strategy involved and a lot of communication. One side of the field is called the snake side and the other is Doritos for the triangular based pyramid bunkers. There are two minute breaks in the game when we get paint, our mask is cleaned off and we are wiped down by the pit crew and the coaches are talking.”
Mr. Campbell is planning on attending fewer events this year. Overall, he has five events this year and would have to win all five to go pro. “I would consider going pro,” he said. “It would be sweet to go pro, but you miss out on so much. You miss your family and friends, you miss out on relationships. Last year I played for the Detroit Infamous and I missed everything. I missed Haweater Weekend, the Pearson Cup, Canada Day. I was only on the Island for about three weekends for the whole year. But as long as I can breathe, I will be doing it. You get to go to a lot of neat places and meet different people. I got to practice and play with people from Russia, France and Scotland. Whatever you put into it, you are going to get out.”
Mr. Campbell also emphasized that anyone can play paintball and have a great time saying, “People in wheelchairs play and I’ve had my grandma come out to play and my sister played and they loved it.”