For anybody who has ever fantasised about playing Rambo but never felt like joining the army, paintball is for you.
Paintball is a mock combat in which ‘warriors’ use air-powered guns to fire paint-filled capsules. While getting shot is not a completely painless experience, it is largely a riskless one, thanks to the masks that players are required to wear at all times. These protect the eyes, mouth, ears and nostrils- and some protect the throat as well. Participants also don overalls to stop their clothes getting ruined.
Throughout the day, the two teams will skirmish in many different locations. Fights generally last for about a quarter of an hour. One rule is constant- the moment a telltale splotch appears on your overalls, you have to leave the contest- but the objectives change. On most occasions, the aim is to seize the enemy’s flag. Sometimes, however, the aim is to capture a particular structure, find a particular object, or simply wipe out everybody from the other side. The result is that nobody is allowed to get bored.
Contrary to popular belief, you don’t have to look like Sylvester Stallone or be a war buff to be good at the game. Although physical fitness is important, possessing rippling muscles or a John Wayne box set is not. The ability to think quickly, act cunningly, communicate effectively and work in a team are the most valuable attributes, meaning that women can compete on an equal footing with men.
An important point to bear in mind is that paintball is best played between teams of about 15, in which most people know one another. ‘Soldiers’ get just as much pleasure from pretending to be Rambo as they do from swapping war stories between rounds, or boasting about how they ‘killed’ their best friend. So, this is an activity that is best suited to large circles of friends, sporting clubs, workplaces and the like. It is also something that requires more organisation that the typical weekend outing.
If you’re still unsure whether paintball is for you, check out these photos: