Every time someone tells me the story of the first time they played paintball, I am always so fascinated in how similar many of our experiences were.
The story almost always starts the same; a friend planned a birthday party at the paintball field or invited them out behind their house to play. Of course most of our mothers gawked and panicked at the idea as soon as they heard the words “gun” or “battle”. But, just as they felt horrified, every single one of us had a Dad that thought it sounded awesome and snuck us off to go and play, or at least my Dad did.
It’s a story that mirrors many competitive and recreational players of the game, and the theme matches mine almost exactly.
My father always wanted me to try new experiences as a child and was always supportive in that journey. He noticed me for months rushing to the magazine aisle at the local grocery store during the weekly family shopping day. I would always grab the latest issue of APG and gawk at the pro players adorned across the pages. He knew how badly I wanted to play paintball even though I was only a young child.
I can still remember Christmas Day 2001; I was just eight years old and my Mother would always do the Christmas shopping because my Dad worked long hours every week on his job site. We would get the normal sorts of gifts; clothings, toys, or even some lucky years, a gameboy. However, every year my Dad would always take the time to buy one gift that he would go out and get for each of my siblings and I. To my elation, that year my Dad bought my brother and I brand new Spyder Xtra paintball guns contained inside their perfect form fitting plastic clamshell packaging. Current NXL President Tom Cole had just helped lead Bad Company to a top four finish at World Cup two months prior using the same basic, blowback Spyder Xtra. I can still remember the glossy blue sheen of that gun; the feeling when I unscrewed the cap on the 200 count Zap paintball bottle to fill my gravity fed hopper, and the pure excitement I felt as my Dad and I shot trees in the back yard until they were stained yellow.
For the following months, every few days, my brother and I would walk the quarter mile trip to our closest next door neighbor and we played paintball. We played without any motive, any goals, any worry of trophies or accolades, and just played the game out of love. Sometimes it would be with as few as 2 vs 2, but on special weekends one of my friends uncles would come down with his brother, both bathed in JT gear, and in their hands, iced out 2001 Angel LCDs. It was mind blowing to me to see these two guys play, and I mean that in the truest sense. They would take on every kid in my part of town, mowing down 20-30 of us every game in the woods. It was at that moment I truly fell in love with the sport of paintball.
I would eventually move on to competitive play and the media side of the game, but I still always kept that Xtra as a memory of where it started, albeit with a few modifications made throughout the years. My Dremel artwork on the body at age 10, the rocking frame and clamping feedneck at age 12, or the Smart Parts Progressive barrel at age 13, all paid for by the reffing job my Dad would drive me to every Saturday at my local field.
It all started with that one moment with my father and led to a lifetime of great memories playing the game. From all the weekends as a kid running me around to the field, to encouraging me to get my first real job as a paintball ref on Saturdays, and everything in between. I am so thankful for all the years I had with my father and that he was so willing to always let me try new experiences like paintball. If you have a moment, thank your Dad, Mom, Uncle, Brother, Friends, or whoever it was that let you experience the game for that first time just as my Father did, because we all owe it to them for bringing us these memories.
A Short, Off-the-cuff Paintball Anecdote in memory of Jeff Nadu Sr. 1964-2023
Read his obituary below;