Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Paintball for Beginners: Myths and Excuses

Mention the word "paintball" and more often than not the person you're talking to will say...

"Paintball? We have paintball in Malaysia?"
"Are you nuts? It's dangerous!"
"It looks painful."
"I've always wanted to play, but it's so expensive!"
"Hello, I'm too old to play paintball."

Now, I've been addicted to paintball for more or less a good year or so and it's frustrating every time I try to introduce someone to the sport, and these comments crop up.

Paintball seems to have a reputation as a violent, blood-raging sport for young, testosterone-ridden, gun-toting maniacs on massive paintkillers.

Nothing's further from the truth.

Myth #1: "Paintball? We have paintball in Malaysia?"

Ok, this is more ignorance than myth, but YES! Where have you been all this while? Uzbekistan?

In fact, we've got the largest paintball scene in Asia!

We've got the international World Cup Asia every year, and two national-level leagues with five legs each (MPOC and MY-NPL), for a total of at least 11 tournaments a year for speedball alone. That's not including all the other smaller tournaments.

World Cup Asia 2009 Poster

Now, note that I said speedball, which is what this article is about. Speedball is played in a designated, netted field, with inflatable bunkers. Recball or woodsball is played in the jungle. The only thing speedball and woodsball have in common are the paintballs. Almost everything else, from gear and markers to playing styles, are quite different.

We have over 60 fields, hundreds dedicated paintballers, and a decent amount of pro shops in Klang Valley.

Myth #2: "Are you nuts? It's dangerous!"

Hockey's more dangerous than paintball is, and I don't see people cringing at the general thought of shooting a puck or two. Nevermind the possibility of getting slammed with a solid piece of vulcanized rubber that can travel up to 160km/hr.

Paintball is a non-contact sport that may appear more violent than it actually is because we associate the paintball markers with guns, but paintballs are just paint-filled gelatin balls designed to break upon impact, making the chances of severe injury very very low.

Paintball Chrono station

In proper tournaments, paintball markers are run through a chronograph to ensure that the velocity at which the ball travels does not exceed 300 feet per second. This means your chances of getting anything more serious than a bad bruise are just about non-existent... unless you remove your mask. But then that's like playing hockey without a mask. A serious no-no, and worthy of an Award for Lack of Common Sense.

Paintball safety rules are extremely strict, and there for a reason.

If you're planning to take the sport up, learn the safety rules, and obey them. I've been to fields where the marshals will slam you on the ground if you take your mask off in a paintball field - whether or not there are any balls flying. Lesson is, don't take your mask off. We don't want you to get your eye shot out, and you don't want a grunting, sweaty marshal shoving and pinning you to the ground and screaming "MASK ON! MASK ON!" in your ear, do you?

Myth #2a: "It looks painful."

Honestly, from a personal point of view, you barely notice it in-game. You're focused on winning, and your adrenaline's giving you a helluva rush. What's a little paintball?

Also, the quality of paint you're playing with makes a difference. If you're playing with practice paint that's got a thick gelatin shell and is more likely to bounce than break, you're going to get a decent bruise. If you play with good paint though, the gelatin shell is much thinner, and will break much more easily, dispersing the impact. Good paint equals less bounces, more hits, and less pain.

And please, I'm a girl, so don't tell me it's only for tough men.

Myth #3: "I've always wanted to play it, but it's so expensive!"

Yes, and no.

If you're just starting out, all you honestly need is a pair of football boots.

I got mine for RM20 at Why Pay More? in Mid Valley. You can probably get a decent pair at RM60-70 in most sporting shops. Most local tournaments will have a rookie division where you are issued a mask and a marker for your games (to be returned right after, or course). No other markers are allowed, so everyone's shooting the same crappy gun. You won't have to worry about someone else shooting 30 balls per sec while you're shooting... 5?

Paintballs will cost you somewhat more, but a box of (somewhat crappy) paint, shared between a 5-person team will cost you approximately RM150-160 per box at your local tourney, for about RM30 or so per person. Tournament grade paint costs more, about RM180-RM200 per box, but the upgrade in quality is worth it, for an additional 10-20 ringgit per person. For a rough guideline, we generally shoot about 4-5 boxes max in Division 4, so you won't spend more than RM250 or so per person on paint per tournament.

As you get better (and more addicted), you'll probably want to get some proper gear, and that's where the real expenses come in. The first thing you should get is a mask. Rental masks are nasty! A decent mask will cost around RM150. If you really want to splurge (and look good, and not worry about your mask fogging up in the heat of the game), the higher end masks can go up to RM400 or so.

Of course, once you get good enough, you can start thinking about sponsors!

Team Rocknrolla is proudly sponsored by Azodin, and Napshot.

Myth #4: "Hello, I'm too old/young/fat to play paintball."

A year into the sport, I've attended nearly all the tournaments hosted this year, and I've seen people from all corners of life play - teenagers, children, men, old men, women, mothers, young girls.

The youngest person I've ever had the privilege to play was an adorable 11-year-old boy named Daniel, and for a first-timer, that kid could shoot, aided of course, by the fact that at his full height he's still smaller than some of the bunkers. When he's crouched, he's just impossible to shoot.

In fact, there's a Dye Kidz program just launched by PALS Events - a program for children from the ages of 7-10 where they will be introduced to the sport of paintball, and all the positive values associated with paintball - teamwork, discipline, social and communication skills, and good sportsmanship.

I've seen people over 40 play tournament paintball, and paint some young'uns a nasty shade orange too, long after others their age have given up football/soccer and sepak takraw.

As for the fat issue... let's use the politically less wrong "big". I've seen 6-foot, 200-lb men play. Most of you will fall in the "smaller than that" category. Our coach is a healthy 6-feet and one of the top players in the country. He can crawl through a snake bunker faster at about the same speed that I would take to run through it, and when he plays really "tight", I swear he can fold himself into a target that's about 2 feet high. Max.

And there you have it.

Paintball is an excellent non-contact sport that promotes teamwork, discipline, communication, good sportsmanship, and that at the same time satisfies that primal urge to obliterate other humans within a safe, controlled environment.

Any other questions, my friend?


  1. stumbled across your blog getting ready for wca. good luck at d4. dont do anything as silly as PCP did at world cup orlando.

    link included your laughs and emphasizing communication is key.

    i will be flying in from US/Taiwan to play d3 with red sevens of singapore. have fun. and less hiking. more jogging will help your fitness.

  2. Hey Arthur!

    Thanks for popping in. Just checked out the vid... lol!! Definitely NOT going to do anything like that, that was hilarious! Poor PCP.

    No worries, we're jogging too. Our next session is on Tuesday. Thanks for the tip!

    Catch you here for WCA then, good luck to you too for D3 :)