Senior Wyatt Goddard knew it was going to be an exciting day. He and his paintball crew arrived in Peoria, Arizona, a hot, western desert after a two-hour road trip at the crack of dawn. He strapped on his helmet tight, loaded his weapon of destruction and headed out to the field. Goddard ducked, dodged and dived behind bunkers in a mad effort to stay in the game. Hot sweat dripped into his eyes, fogging his vision as he tried to catch his breath. He snuck out in to open range, the last sole survivor of his team. The odds were stacked high against him as 13 exhausted, determined opponents crowded him in. It was panic and survival mode. Fight or die.
Bass-filled techno music blasted through Goddard’s earphones as he took a deep breath and strategically called his shots. One by one he pelted 12 of the competitors and they dropped dead like flies. There was only one left. The referee was alarmed by Goddard’s advanced skill and eyeballed him sharply to make sure there was no unfair advantage. Players on the sideline were losing it. Bright orange and yellow goo exploded out of Goddard’s marker hitting the last victim in the chest. The opponent dropped to the grass, consumed by the agony of defeat while Goddard raised his hands high in victory. He dropped to his knees and laid in the grass, basking in the light of glory. It was Goddard versus the world and he conquered it.
“It was incredible, you get a dopamine, serotonin, adrenaline rush,” Goddard said.
Goddard has been treasurer of the NAU Paintball Club for three years. He developed his passion for paintball at the age of 13 when he and some of his middle school friends went out to shoot at a birthday party. Goddard joined the club his freshman year to meet new friends and participate in an outdoor sport. Since then, he has taken on a leadership role in the club and shared his knowledge and experience with new paintball enthusiasts.
There are currently five to six consistent members on the team. The club took a big hit last year when several members graduated and moved away. The club is limited to where they can practice in Flagstaff. They are not allowed to play on university property because a paintball marker is considered a weapon. There is a small hidden field deep within the forest on the outskirts of town where the club has built a course for practice. But for most events, they travel to Phoenix where they play at public fields with other paintball enthusiasts.
“I love going out and I love the road trip with the guys down to Phoenix,” freshman club member Kyle Owens said. “I like meeting other people. The paintball community is a friendly community and they want everyone to have fun.”
The club recently attended Reclamation, an event in Tucson with nearly 250 paintball fanatics. Paintball battles can last 30 minutes to two hours. Sometimes there are bases set up where players can repair and reload equipment.
“I actually bought my gun from a guy I met at a paintball field,” Owens said. “I get happy when I play because when I shoot somebody and see them put their gun up and walk off the field, I’m helping my team. The adrenaline rush makes me want to keep doing it.”
Using a tool that looks like a weapon and the fear of being painfully pelted with paintballs deters some students from trying the sport.
“If a paintball hits your bare skin within a close range of 10 to 20 feet, you can get a welt but it’s not that bad. It’s just a little bit of a sting,” senior club president Tyson Urkov said. “Most of the time you have your adrenaline pumping because you’re excited and running around. I hardly notice it unless it’s a really close-up shot.”
Regardless, paintball is intimidating and potentially dangerous.
“There’s a lot of people who don’t respect it. A paintball marker is a fire arm, it can do damage if you’re not careful,” Goddard said.
New members are educated about safety before they go out to shoot. Wearing a mask is mandatory 100% of the time players are on the field. Having a comfortable and good quality mask is a big factor in being able to duck, roll, dive and run quickly. Players should cover their marker with a barrel bag to prevent accidental shooting when they are not on the field.
The club provides paintball guns, air tanks, masks and paintballs. Students can participate wearing a helmet, long sleeved t-shirt and sweats but purchasing padded clothing is encouraged for added protection. Sportsmanship, communication, and athleticism are important skills to be successful at paintball. Mental and physical agility as well as an ability to think strategically and make quick decisions comes in handy.
There are two different types of paintball: Speed ball and Rec ball. Speed ball is a more professional, competitive game that can be very expensive at the advanced level. The professional league in the United States is called National Xball League. Recreational paint ball is more common and it’s the style practiced by the NAU Paintball Club. The team drives out to desert fields that look like little towns with big tires and obstacles to hide behind.
The rules are simple: Shoot out everyone you can on the opposing team and be the last one standing. Shots to the face are permitted because the mask is designed to take a hit. However, once a player is shot, he or she is out. The game is based on an honor system and players are expected to call themselves out and quit when they are shot.
“The standard speed of a paintball is 290 to 300 feet per second,” Urkov said.
Shooting someone more than once is not allowed. In close range contact situations where players are 10 to 15 feet apart, the shooter asks the opponent to surrender before firing because close-up shots can be more painful.
“There’s nothing else quite like it — just running around and dodging and shooting other people out,” Urkov said. “Paintball is a unique sport and it’s a very niche sport that a lot of people haven’t been exposed to.
If you are looking for something different and outdoorsy, come meet some friendly students who find joy in slinging and splashing some paint. Club meetings are held every Tuesday at 8 p.m. in Room 2407 in the Health and Learning Center.