Florida 10 Man Classic
Growing up a fan of professional paintball is much like growing up a fan of any other sport. You have your heroes and your villains. There are stories of great victories and even greater defeats (Hopefully more of the former). The main difference is that in Paintball your heroes are obtainable. They often times play at your local fields. You can attend local events and shake their hands and have an everyday conversation with them. These athletes are often humble as they know the struggle a paintball life brings. I had the opportunity in Early January 2019 to play alongside and against many of my childhood favorites at the Florida 10 Man classic held in Hudson FL at GP Xtreme Paintball.
The classic form of Paintball consists of Mechanical markers (Or electronic capped at 5.5 Balls per second). It is played in generally a 10 vs. 10 format on three different field types which are Mounds (Think WW1 trenches), Woods fields and Hyperball. This slower format has allowed many of the cowboys of the past who were forced to hang up their spurs due to father time and the evolving format of paintball to thrive once again as the kings they once were.
Pulling into GP Xtreme Paintball which is owned by Rick Hernandez you might as well have been doing 88 in a Delorean. This location has been turned into a fortress of 90’s paintball culture. Along with a large array of Woodsball fields for recreational players front and center sits a Mounds field which is about 75 yards long and 40 yards wide. Picture a cross between an X games motocross course and every WW1 documentary you’ve ever seen and you can only begin to imagine what this field looks like. A few yards away you find a Hyperball field of similar size. Hyperball is the most familiar form of classic paintball to newer players as the fields play similar to modern day airball except the bunkers are generally permanently fixed into the ground (Corrugated plastic tubing). The woods ball field for the event featured a dug in snake and a top side that offered many opportunities to shoot and move. The center of the field was divided by a huge bastion of Palmetto leaves (Picture the top of a palm tree in bush form).
The two day event brought teams new and old from all over the country to battle it out in an eight game format. Legends such as the All Americans, Farside, Master Blasters and Ground Zero battled it out with local favorites such as the modern Pro Team Tampa Bay Damage and new kids on the block the autococker wielding “Fight Club”. The games on all three fields were a great combination of old school tactics combined with the more refined paintball we have come to see in modern times. Over the course of two days beyond the great paintball we got to witness more importantly it was a reunion of sorts. It was as if your high school was having its 20 year reunion and you’re finally back together with all your old friends. The years of separation melt away and it’s as if you only saw each other a few months ago at the last major event.
Ultimately the event would be won by Tampa Bay Damage (playing as Buddy Squad). These gentlemen represent some of the best paintball talent Earth currently has to offer and many of them were young bucks when this type of paintball was in its prime. The games they played were hard fought and close with every game being a pure battle that you could write a story about in itself.
I like to think that paintball is somewhat in a bit of a renaissance. Many of the individuals who graced my bedroom walls in poster form have families and children of their own. They are settled and want the opportunity to recapture some of their youth. Companies such as Planet Eclipse, Inception Designs and Shocker Paintball have recognized this and are offering products to cater to this new form (or old) form of paintball.
The feeling of being in the huddle with these people who I grew up idolizing was one of the best experiences in my entire life. It can only be compared to a basketball fan getting on the court with Kobe or Lebron. For anyone looking to get an insight on what paintball was back in the 90’s and to get a small taste of the roots that created what we have today there is two videos that are a must watch. The first is known as “Push” and the Second being “Sunday Drivers”. I’ve included links below
Paul Laska – Cousins Paintball