Splats fun: Paintballer enjoys growing sport
There was a time when Jarret Fink and a handful of friends had the joy of paintball all to themselves.
It was 1985 when the then 12-year-old was in the woods around Grass Valley, popping his buddies with brightly colored balls of paint.
“When I got into it, I was maybe one of six people in the county who had a paintball gun,” he said. “It was fun, but there was a lot more hunting for people (involved than it is now). Every now and then, you’d see someone to shoot at. It was more hide-and-go-seek than paintball.”
With time, the rest of country caught on to what Fink and his pals already knew: paintball is fun.
“This sport awakens the adrenaline junkie in anybody. You can take a kid who never learned to ride a bicycle and cries when kids call him names, he plays paintball all day, and he’s a different kid,” he said.
“I ran a game at Lymon Gilmore (School) two weeks ago and I had about 175 kids there on going through their summer school program, and there was this one kid, who you could just tell (wasn’t too excited about it), making excuses why he could play. So, I went into the truck and got one of my personal guns out and gave it to him. By the end of the day, you couldn’t stop him. He turned into a man that day,” Fink laughed.
Fink, 29, who got into the business end of the sport a few years back, now owns the only strictly paintball operation in for miles around.
Judging by his mailing list, business is good.
“I started selling stuff out my garage, now I have 1,100 customers, 960 in Nevada County,” Fink said. “The last two years since the store opened up have been unbelievable. People come into the store and say they’ve heard about the sport on ESPN. They come in and say, ‘Wow, I can get into the sport for 150 bucks? That’s cheaper than snowboarding’.”
The change in gun – or marker, as it’s known in the biz – technology has also played a role in making the sport more exciting Fink said.
“The difference in technology between the top and bottom level guns isn’t what it used to be. It used to be a $200 package would be a pump gun, a mask that fogged up and a tank that was heavy. (And it) would barely be able to shoot a ball every couple of seconds,” he said. “Now you can get into a 12 balls a second rate of fire for under $200.”
Entry-level packages can be cheap, but like everything else, the sky’s the limit.
Gabe Garrison, 21, who teams with Fink and the 15 other area residents who make up Team Mad Dawg, has put $1,500 into his high-tech marker.
“A lot of people say I’m crazy for putting that kind of money into my gun, then I ask them how much money they spent on their golf clubs,” he said. “You’re not going to spend that kind of money unless you’re serious.”
Serious is a good way to describe the way Team Mad Dawg approaches the sport.
The team, which was formed by the New Covenant Baptist Church as a youth outreach group in 1997, has snapped up 15 trophies and a pair of national titles in that time.
It won back-to-back national stock gun championships from 1999-2000, and took second last year.
With plenty of national hardware on the shelf, Fink, Garrison and rest of Team Mad Dawg will look to add some international chrome to the trophy case when they head to the Seven Man World Championships in Toulouse, France next July.
For more information on paintball or Team Mad Dawg, check the internet at http://www.teammaddawg.com.
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