A Bucket List Life

#2. Spend A Day Playing Paintball


This particular Saturday was one I had eagerly anticipated the week prior. I awoke earlier than normal and filled up on a protein rich breakfast, as I knew it was going to be a day of physical and mental exertion. I must admit that I am not the healthiest of eaters, and this Saturday morning was no exception. I loaded up on a couple eggs, home fries, turkey bacon, and wheat toast. No, I did not gulp the eggs like Rocky Balboa! I took my vitamin and mineral supplements with breakfast like I do daily and jumped in the shower.

The clothes I picked for this Saturday we’re older, ones that I would not mind getting dirty and covered in paint. It was suggested to wear camouflage clothing, of which I had none. So, I stopped by a thrift store and purchased some. Bear in mind I had no intentions of getting hit, yet I knew I would at the least get dirty. Being that this was my first foray into the paintball world, the only experience I had to use as my guide was what a few of my pals suggested and what I read online. Excited? You bet I was. Nervous? You bet I was! This nervous energy would soon subside to the adrenaline rush I would experience.

We had a reservation at the Field of Fire in Newhall, and the clock was approaching that hour quickly. I jumped in my SUV and headed out to pick up 3 of my pals that were going. In total 16 of us planned this adventure well in advance. The total collection of 16, including me, know each other well as we went to High School together. Each of us consider ourselves fortunate in that we have stayed in contact and made it a point to get together a couple times a year. In past years we have gone hiking (not my cup of tea!), numerous banzai runs to Vegas (what happens there stays there!), and tried our luck at picking the horses at Santa Anita.

The paintball idea came from a couple of my friends who tried it years back and fell in love with it. Fans of movies that revolve around military missions, it seemed to some of us that they were living vicariously through the actors and actresses on screen. Myself a fan of this genre of movies, I relished the opportunity to take on the “terrorists” this Saturday as I channeled my inner Bradley Cooper.

Our venue is located just outside of our hometown, Los Angeles, so travel was not going to be a challenge outside of typical LA traffic. Try getting 16 people on the same page to make a trip to Vegas! Better yet try finding the one or two who always come up missing when departure time arrives! I’m happy to report I have not been one of the “missing in action”, yet.

Our reservation was for a 4 hour block of time, so for those in our party who are parents this time block was easier for them to schedule than an overnight trip. Being a single man myself, I am more of the “free spirit” type. All 16 of us planned to meet at the Field of Fire, and I can happily report that every one of us made it early. 4 of us volunteered to drive in vehicles that can host 3 others, so the logistics were relatively simple. Everyone was up and ready to do battle.

Each of us met in the parking lot and ensured we had the proper attire. We all were fully clothed (which is necessary for when the inevitable hit occurs) with a wide range of headgear present ranging from beanies to baseball caps. A few of us had bandanas to cover our necks, and everyone had fingerless gloves to ensure we could pull the trigger flawlessly. This was war after all!

We quickly realized upon entering the facility that some of us were not properly prepared for the attacks from the enemy. The helpful associate mentioned how bruising could occur, so we needed extra padding. Protective clothing was available for rental, and several of us jumped at the opportunity to protect ourselves better.

As part of the package reservation, each of us was equipped with a protective mask, gun, air refills, and 500 paintballs. The excitement was building! My nervous energy was quickly leaving me as the helpful staff knew exactly what to say and do to quiet our jittery nerves over the unknown.

As each of us slipped on the gear, it felt as if we were part of a military mission on foreign soil! I can say with all certainty that I felt a shift in my persona as I put the mask on, almost as if I were going from my typical “free spirit” self to the second coming of a Green Beret! I knew at this moment that I was in love with the sport of paintball. I have played golf and have yet to take on the likeness of Tiger Woods. I love to fish yet struggle with the necessary patience. This, on the other hand, transformed me instantly and I knew this was the release I needed from the frustrations of daily life.

Each of us then received our paintball gun, and it was time to get serious. Of importance to note is that this is my experience, as each individual comes to his or her own conclusions. Not everyone in our group fell in love with this sport, I certainly did. With our gear on for safety, the helpful staff offering each of us the wisdom necessary to have a safe and fun experience, and our guns in hand we were ready!

We all agreed at the beginning to partake in the original form of paintball, leaving the other option of speedball for those better experienced and equipped. Before we headed into battle the staff showed us the varieties of games that would unfold.

The following 4 hours of paintball was exhilarating and nothing like what I expected. All the fears that I had leading up to this experience, well, needless to say a waste of energy. Paintball is not dangerous as long as each participating individual takes a few safety measures. The paintball guns that we were given to use are closely regulated in relation to their “power”, thereby ensuring the participants are in much less danger of injury.

We had a referee, ensuring that each one of us was following the rules and not letting the heat of the moment take over. Come to find out it is commonplace for paintball enthusiasts to get into heated exchanges on the “battlefield”. While my group of friends are highly competitive, we all behaved responsibly on the fields of play. For days afterwards we traded jabs at each other via text messaging, all in good fun.

The actual 4 hours consisted of simulated battlefields, with various structures throughout to take cover and find the enemies. Imagine, if you will, a mix of an old western and a deserted city in the middle east. That was what I expected, and I was not disappointed. So, what was it like to be hit by a paintball? What was it like to hit someone else?

With the proper protective clothing and gear on, it was a blast! The best way I know to describe what it was like to be hit is by taking a rubber band and snapping it on your arm. Once the juices got flowing, I hardly noticed any hits after the initial one. Pulling the paintball gun trigger and hitting one of the enemies is a delightful experience! To see the paint splatter on them signifying a hit provides a sense of accomplishment and a desire to hit more.

The amount of exercise that I got from this 4 hours is what surprised me the most. I would recommend stretching the morning of your first paintball experience as I used muscles that had been dormant for some time.

This first foray into paintball was so much fun that I am already saving up for my first paintball gun. I have been reading online about paintball essentials, and am in communication with a couple of my friends who are hooked as well.

In the days, and morning leading up to my first paintball experience I was nervous and excited. Today, I can’t wait to go at it again. It is as fulfilling a way to spend half a day as I have found yet. Angry at your boss? Here is a way to exert some of that frustration in a healthy way! My last reflection is this as I feel it is important to repeat. Paintball is not as dangerous as some online bloggers and chat room folks would have you believe. In a well regulated, safe environment such as Field of Fire, there is nothing to worry about. Outside of a small bruise or two that’s it! And as I have found out, those small bruises are a symbol of honor in the paintball community!

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