By Joseph Robertia
On the central Kenai Peninsula, the term “combat” is often used to describe the hordes of fishermen that line the banks of various streams when salmon are running. But May 25, combat took a more literal meaning in a field of grass, sand and obstacles off of Kalifornsky Beach Road.
Other than the preponderance of camo gear, the group of guys gathered Saturday morning didn’t seem out of the ordinary, being students, employees, employers, sons and fathers. But as operations began, they donned another mantle — that of soldier, armed with their weapon of choice, the paintball gun.
“Who’s hungry?” shouted one player while taking to the 110-by-250-foot field of the new Pointblank paintball course. “Because I’m ready to feed somebody paint!”
Behind him, the rest of his team and the opposing crew were outfitted in SWAT-like protective gear and masks — at least one bearing a resemblance to a skull to strike fear into his enemies — and all carrying various forms of paint-propelling firearms, including a few designed to look like AK-47s or AR-15s.
When the official sounded the start of the match through a bullhorn, controlled chaos ensued. A hailstorm of hundreds of small, blue rounds flew in all directions as some of the guns — technically called “markers” — had the ability to shoot as many as 16 balls per second at a speed of nearly 300 feet per second. The growling shouts of teams directing their assaults were punctuated by the frequent “pop-pop-pop-pop” of rounds being fired.
There were intense, close-quarters maneuvers throughout the field, peppered with stacks of tires and large wooden spools providing scant cover. An assailant would turn a corner to find himself face to face with an adversary he had to shoot before getting shot first. Shooters often found themselves close enough to see the whites, and surprise, in the eyes of their opponents.
“I’ll probably go through 4,000 rounds today,” said John Revis, 25, of Sterling, who was playing with several of his AK Ragnarok teammates. Having gotten into paintball roughly 11 years ago, Revis has evolved into an upper-echelon player of the sport, competing in numerous tournaments around the state and in the Lower 48, some with as many as 7,000 players.
“I go to the gym, run and exercise year-round to stay in shape for this,” he said.